Notre Dame's Harangody back to old self

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
10:20
AM ET
Notre Dame opens the Big East season at DePaul on Wednesday. That was supposed to be the game Mike Brey was circling for Luke Harangody's return from pneumonia.

Well, he is back for that game -- as in back to himself, after catching up the past few weeks by getting in condition while playing.

Brey didn't think Harangody would play against Ohio State on Dec. 6 -- he had missed the first two home games following a trip back from Maui, when he got sick. But the day before the game in Indianapolis, Harangody was cleared by team doctors.

"I wanted to slow him down, but the doctors gave him a clean slate,'' Brey said. "The game was in Indianapolis and he was an Indiana kid. I knew either we should go for it or not dress him.''

Harangody scored 25 points and grabbed 16 boards in the loss to the Buckeyes. Since then, though, Harangody has had double-doubles in two of the three games Notre Dame has played, albeit against lesser competition. The reigning Big East player of the year is primed for the conference season, having gotten reps and rest -- he played fewer than 30 minutes in the Irish's past two games -- over the past three weeks.

"His conditioning level is back now to where it was,'' Brey said. "He's got his legs under him now.''

That's good because the Irish, like everyone else in the Big East, are ready for the grind. Notre Dame will get its run of difficult stretches in league play, but the Irish open on the road at DePaul and at St. John's, two of the projected bottom-six teams in the league. Yet, these are exactly the type of road games a team like Notre Dame must win to stay in a race that will be unforgiving with each loss.

Brey said the sense of urgency and buzz about the Big East makes it easier for his team to focus. He said the Irish, one of the more veteran teams in the league, understand that they were in the race late last season because they took care of the games they were supposed to earlier in the season.

"Playing DePaul is great for us because it's an old rivalry, a traditional rivalry and it's in Chicago, where we have a lot of fans,'' Brey said. "Every win counts the same in this league and crazy things can happen on the road. We're the hunted now, and people will come after us more so than in the past.''

• Brey said coaches from the around the country came up to him at recruiting events all summer, wanting to talk about the Big East.

"Most coaches want to watch the drama, but don't want to coach in the league,'' Brey said. "They just want to see how this is going to play out.''

• Brey said the Irish's 81-80 win over Texas on Nov. 25 has to be considered the league's best nonconference win so far. I would put it on a list with UConn's win over Gonzaga in Seattle and, most recently, West Virginia's win at Ohio State.

"Ohio State put it on us, but not having David Lighty [out with a broken foot] is hurting them right now,'' Brey said of the Buckeyes. "I don't think there is a better win than ours over Texas. They're really, really good. We've got that one in the bank now. Stuff like that is a difference-maker.''

• Sunday provided a slew of games because of the holiday weekend.

Stanford improved its record to 9-0 with a win over Texas Tech. That's not as surprising as the score. Not sure I saw this coming: The Cardinal scored 111 points and held the Red Raiders to 66, the second-worst loss in Texas Tech history.

• It's odd, but it seems so routine when North Carolina crushes another opponent in the second half -- this time the opponent was Rutgers, and Tyler Hansbrough had yet another double-double (26 points and 10 boards). Senior forward Marcus Ginyard made his season debut after sitting out with a stress fracture in his lower left leg. Ginyard came off the bench for 11 minutes, scoring three points and grabbing four boards, but he's more needed to be a defensive stopper and offer leadership. It's weird, but you almost forget Tyler Zeller was starting on this team early in the season, while Hansbrough was out with a stress reaction, before he broke his wrist.

• The Missouri Valley Conference season started Sunday with some interesting results. Illinois State continues to be one of the last remaining unbeatens after it won at Missouri State in overtime. Creighton established itself as a premier team yet again, protecting its home court in Omaha with a solid win over Wichita State. Southern Illinois is clearly struggling, losing its Valley opener at Bradley and dropping to 5-7. SIU is young and should be solid next season, but it was hard to see the Salukis floundering this much when they arrived confident in New York last month. Evansville is here to stay in the Valley race, as it demonstrated with a home win over Drake -- Drake didn't lose its first Valley game last season until Feb. 13 at Southern Illinois.

• UCLA hasn't had any issues scoring lately, blowing out Wyoming 113-62 and then beating Louisiana Tech 78-55 on Sunday. Senior Josh Shipp came back from a thumb injury to score 16 and Jrue Holiday is starting to emerge a bit more, as he scored a dozen points and grabbed 10 boards.

• USC and freshman DeMar DeRozan just needed time to get their footing. DeRozan led the Trojans with 18 points in an easy win over Oral Roberts on Sunday. Connecticut transfer Marcus Johnson made his debut at small forward for the Trojans and scored six points in 19 minutes. Forward Nikola Vucevic is also getting more time. Playing in his fourth game, Vucevic played his most minutes -- 15 -- on Sunday and scored four points.

• Indiana lost at home to Lipscomb. No one should be shocked that the Hoosiers are at rock bottom, but it's still jarring to see the results.

• Florida State has rebounded well from the disappointing home loss to Pitt on Dec. 21. The Seminoles beat Western Kentucky in the Orange Bowl Classic (Sunrise, Fla.) behind Toney Douglas' 27 points.

• Florida beat Winthrop in the other game in the Orange Bowl Classic. It's hard to believe the once-dominant Big South team is off to a 1-10 start.

• Siena beat Saint Joseph's 75-74 on Sunday -- that's the type of result that was expected of the Saints in the preseason.

• Mike Montgomery was being a typical coach in downplaying his team in the fall. Yet, Cal is heading toward Pac-10 play with an impressive 11-2 record. Cal won its own tournament Sunday by beating Portland by 20 behind Jamal Boykin's double-double of 19 points and 12 boards.

• Anthony Crater bolted on Ohio State over the weekend. His tenure, albeit a short one of just one semester, won't be without an incident that could have lasting effects this season. Crater initially swiped at Miami's Jack McClinton in an apparent attempt to get the ball. McClinton reacted to Crater's hand coming at his face with a smack of his own that connected on Crater. The officials saw the latter and McClinton was tossed out of the game. Miami held a 14-point halftime lead. Without McClinton, the Canes lost the lead and the game in the second half. That home loss may linger for Miami as it works its way toward an NCAA bid. And how about this one: A representative of Crater's actually wanted to know if Miami had interest in him as a transfer. You can imagine the answer from the 'Canes -- no thanks.

• Reserve judgment before getting too jazzed about the Big 12 midyear additions for 2009-10. Jai Lucas is heading to Texas from Florida, where he was hardly a star last season. Jeff Withey is going to Kansas after leaving Arizona before the season started, so it's extremely premature to project what kind of impact he'll have on the Jayhawks next season.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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