Despite some comments from his players, Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun was very respectful of Notre Dame as the Huskies prepare to head to South Bend for Saturday's matchup.
Calhoun half-joked during Thursday's Big East Conference Teleconference that he was "not looking forward to Notre Dame."
"They're awfully tough to beat, obviously, at the Joyce Center, the record will speak to that," said Calhoun. "They beat Georgetown there, they've beaten Seton Hall there and they'll beat mostly anybody there. I just think we'll have to have our A game and we'll have to be on top of things."
"When they talk about the national players, Blake Griffin's and the other players, his name has to be included there in my opinion," the UConn coach said of Harangody.
Calhoun downplayed the significance of Thabeet's preseason remarks questioning Harangody's toughness.
"I don't think that Luke cares and I don't think that Hasheem cares. Hasheem was taken out of context, he was making jokes and it was done in a playful kind of manner," he said. "He knows how good Luke Harangody is. He's a terrific player, a great competitor and they know each other very well."
The Huskies know that Thabeet is likely to hear it from the Notre Dame student body, but Calhoun is hoping that motivates his guy.
"He will probably get it from the fans, that's part of the deal," he said. "But we've had kids, Khalid El-Amin and other kids, only respond even better and I expect that's what Hasheem will do.
"Hasheem is very respectful of his opponents. He was misquoted, misspoke, whatever the word may be. He knows how good Luke Harangody is, he's one of the best players in America - not just the Big East - in America. As far as we're concerned, we're playing Notre Dame, it's not Hasheem vs. Harangody. That will be a matchup, no question, but it's got nothing to do, quite frankly, with the game."
"McAlarney still stretches you and causes you problems, big-time problems, and having two ballhandlers with he and Jackson make them a really tough out," he said. "Notre Dame believes they're going to win every game at the Joyce Center and right now they are."
UConn will take the us-against-the-world approach into South Bend this weekend.
"Take the coaching staff, the managers and the players and it equals out to be 20 people. It's 20 of us versus them," said Calhoun.
That mentality helped the Huskies when they came back from 10 down in Seattle against Gonzaga to pull out an overtime victory.
"What you work on in practice is bringing everybody together and understanding that when we get on that plane and we get off at the hotel, we're a group, we're a circle and no one breaks the circle," said Calhoun. "In the last 15 years we have the best road record in the Big East. I personally don't mind at all, as a matter of fact there are some who would say that I relish a good fight occasionally.
"I have great respect for Mike, his players, his kids play hard as heck and they're still one of the most dangerous offensive teams in America. We'll unite and if we don't, we'll get beat. We're going to have to unite, it is going to be hostile and there will be distractions. Nothing will bother us except the quest for the win."