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Saturday, March 6, 2010
On a roll, Irish phase in Harangody

By Eamonn Brennan

Admit it. You've been thinking it. It's OK, I won't tell anyone. Plus, I've found myself thinking the same thing from time to time. We're all in this together.

Luke Harangody
Luke Harangody scored five points in 11 minutes in his return.
That oh-so-scandalous thought: "Wait, is Notre Dame actually better without Luke Harangody?"

The evidence is compelling. Since Harangody suffered the bone bruise that's kept him out of action since Feb. 11, the Irish have gone on a bubble-reviving run in the Big East (though not before losing to St. John's and at Louisville in overtime, not that the latter is anything to be ashamed of). Notre Dame has taken consecutive wins over Pittsburgh, at Georgetown and UConn. For the first four months of the season, with Harangody in the lineup, Notre Dame was a sub-bubble team. In the three weeks since his injury, Notre Dame has played themselves back into the tournament.

Let's put the notion to rest, at least temporarily; today, Harangody returned, and though his contributions were limited (11 minutes, five points, two rebounds), Notre Dame managed to beat a good Marquette team in Milwaukee with Harangody in the mix. So, no: The Ewing Theory doesn't quite apply here.

What is interesting is how Harangody's return will affect Notre Dame's suddenly well-rounded attack. In his absence, Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis have taken their games to a new level. On the whole, the Irish seem more fluid, more dynamic, able to score from more spots on the floor. Obviously Harangody is a very good player, but it's hard to deny the Irish haven't been somewhat freed by his injury. There's no compulsion to run a certain number of possessions through one player, albeit one very, very good offensive player.

So when Harangody returns in full will the Irish incorporate him into their newfound balance, making them even more dangerous on offense? Or will the Irish revert to their prior, non-Harangody selves? With the Big East tournament just a few days away, Notre Dame doesn't t have much time to figure it out. In the meantime, coach Mike Brey can take today's result as a minor positive. Maybe the Irish aren't better without their best player. Weird, right?