Xavier bounced back nicely from Tuesday's home loss to Georgetown with an 84-76 win over Seton Hall on Saturday at the Cintas Center. James Farr led the Musketeers with a career-high 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field to go with 15 rebounds, a career-high four assists, three blocks and two steals.
Read that stat line again. It's the best all-around performance turned in by a Musketeer this year, topping Trevon Bluiett's outing against DePaul when he scored 24 points (7-14 FG), grabbed six boards, dished out four assists, and had two steals and a block on defense.
"I just played hard," Farr said. "Sometimes even when you play hard your baskets don't drop and rebounds don't come your way, but that doesn't determine how I play. Today I just played hard, and things went well for me. My teammates did a good job of finding me. I didn't do anything different - today was just a good day for me."
There have been a lot of nice things said about Farr this year in the local and national media, but it hasn't been enough. He's still underrated.
Farr went from a junior that struggled to find his role for the first half of the season, to a junior that became effective in his role as a rebounder for the second half of the season. Expectations were basically more of the same from him entering his senior year.
When he posted a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds in the second game of the season against Missouri, and then had eight points and 13 rebounds at Michigan, it looked like he had developed his offensive game enough to be a role player capable of providing an occasional offensive lift.
Now, 19 games into the season, it's more than that. Farr is a go-to player for this team, capable of leading the Musketeers on any given night, and the argument could be made that he's the best center in the Big East.
What Farr is doing is special. He's currently averaging 10.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. And the crazy part is he's only playing 21.4 minutes.
"What I see is somebody that's really confident," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "He's a senior. The simple fact is he didn't play much for two years. He was a good role player for us last year, but sometimes when you go through the fire and everything doesn't come your way so easily, you just want it more. You carry a bigger chip on your shoulder. You have a 'I'm not going down like this,' type of attitude. He's always been a humble and hard working kid. He's always been a team guy. He's put in time in the weight room. He's put in time on the floor, both in practice and on his own with Coach Mike (Pegues). I just think you're seeing a guy that's very, very confident, and it's really fun to watch."
Here's the list of Xavier players since David West (20.1 ppg and 11.8 rpg in 2002-03) that have averaged at least 10 points and nine rebounds in the same season: Travis Taylor in 2012-13 when he averaged 11.9 points and 9.0 rebounds. But he also played 31.7 minutes per game.
That's it. That's the list.
Here are some of the names that didn't accomplish this feat: Matt Stainbrook, Kenny Frease, Jamel McLean, Jason Love, Derrick Brown, CJ Anderson, Josh Duncan, Josh Doellman, Brian Thornton, and Tom Compton. And pretty much all of those guys played a lot more than 21.4 minutes per game.
Farr is also rebounding at a higher rate on the offensive and defensive glass than any Xavier player, including West, since KenPom started tracking rebound rate as a statistic in 2002-03.
As for the best center in the Big East line I snuck in there: If we're considering Providence's Ben Bentil (19.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.1 apg) as a center, then he would clearly be the conference's best. But, he's more of a forward playing the five. After that, the next two players duking it out in the Big East center power rankings would likely be Farr and Villanova's Daniel Ochefu. Ochefu is averaging 9.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 assists in 21.9 minutes per game. He would probably get the nod because of his game-changing ability on the defensive end of the court, but it's close.
In the head-to-head battle at Villanova, Ochefu had 12 points (5-6 FG), 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 27 minutes, while Farr finished with 15 points (6-11 FG), seven rebounds, one assist and one steal in 24 minutes.
Farr should be getting serious All-Big East consideration.
More importantly for Xavier, he's been a steady force, controlling the glass at both ends and providing a consistent post scoring option. Outside of the outlier Georgetown game, where the Musketeers were beat in most facets including rebounding, Xavier has enjoyed an advantage in the frontcourt in every other matchup they've faced this year - Farr's consistent presence has been a big reason for that.
Farr still has plenty of season ahead of him where he'll need to sustain this level of performance, and ultimately his legacy at Xavier will be cemented by what he does in March. However, 19 games in is enough of a sample size to know that he's putting together a special senior season. and Saturday's performance sent a message that he's not going anywhere down the stretch.
"I'm a senior. My days here are ticking down," he said. "I just want to make sure I go out on the right note and be a good leader to my teammates. I take every game seriously. Today was an important day, and I just wanted to lead by example as a senior leader."