The Road to 2-0: Part II

Part II of our look at the key members of Notre Dame's rotation and the necessary contributions from each if the Irish are to advance to the Sweet 16.

Click here for Part I.

The Harangody Effect – Carleton Scott

The hero of the regular season finale – and the team's most improved player in February – Scott has been the player whose game has been impacted the most by the return of Luke Harangody.

Four Starts Prior to Harangody's Return:

  • Pittsburgh: 6 points (back-to-back 3-point shots), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 28 minutes.
  • Georgetown: 17 points (7-8 from the field; 3-4 from beyond the arc), 9 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 assists, 3 blocked shots, 1 steal, 35 minutes.
  • Connecticut: 12 points (4-8 from the field; 2-4 long-range), 14 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal, 38 minutes.
  • Marquette: 14 points (5-10 from the field; 1-3 including the game-tying 22-footer to send the game into overtime), 13 rebounds, 42 points (Harangody returned for 11 minutes of spot duty vs. the Golden Eagles).

Three Starts Following Harangody's Return:

  • Seton Hall: 8 points (4-6 from the field), 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 5 fouls in 20 minutes.
  • Pittsburgh: 6 points (3-3 from the field), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 5 fouls in 25 minutes.
  • West Virginia: 5 points (2-6 from the field), 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, 1 block in 34 minutes.

Harangody's return to the rotation understandably impacts Scott's playing time and impact as a scorer/shooter. It should not impact his contribution on the boards and presence as a weak side defender.

Head coach Mike Brey needs to find a way to re-light a fire under Scott entering Thursday's contest. At this point, he's at least as important to the Irish fortunes as is Harangody.

Back to the Backboards – Luke Harangody

His minutes remained fairly consistent in the team's three-game conference tournament run, but his production – and the team's reliance on him – varied greatly.

Harangody was the team's best player over his 24 minutes vs. Seton Hall, netting 20 points and 10 boards and exploiting obvious mismatches throughout. Aside from blatantly ignoring two open shooters and instead forcing a fade-away jump shot, Harangody seemed to have a comfort level in the new offense.

In the quarterfinals victory over Pittsburgh, Harangody struggled for the first 18 of his 22 game minutes, hindering the Irish on both ends of the floor (see related analysis regarding Harangody's plus-minus impact entitled, Balancing the Weapon with the Workers.

Still, he grabbed the game's decisive rebound and hit the clinching free throws in the final 13 seconds. It was an All American sequence that followed a crucial turnover after an extended stretch (nearly seven minutes) on the bench.

Harangody played 26 minutes in the semi-final loss to the Mountaineers. None of the Irish were overly impressive offensively, and frankly, a half-healthy Harangody is more valuable than a passive Carleton Scott or cold-shooting Tim Abromaitis. But the Harangody we saw in the Big East Tournament had one major, correctable flaw in his game: 72 minutes, 2 offensive rebounds (and only 13 total rebounds). Both offensive rebounds came against the indifferent defense of the Seton Hall Pirates.

Harangody had just five boards vs. the physical fronts of the Panthers and Mountaineers. He'll face what appears to be a solid rebounding group Thursday in the Old Dominion Monarchs.

A confident Harangody is worth one win per weekend over the next two weeks. An aggressive Harangody – one that makes rebounding his mission – would help the Irish complete theirs.

Courtesy Minutes or Defensive Presence? – Jon Peoples

The senior's playing time diminished as the tourney progressed (from 12 vs. the Pirates; to 10 vs. the Panthers; to just 4 vs. West Virginia in a failed attempt to deter Da'Sean Butler defensively).

In fairness to Peoples, he wasn't allowed to breathe on Butler (and that makes a near-impossible defensive assignment, well…impossible).

But Peoples will be needed vs. the guard tandem of LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter if the Irish can defeat ODU on Thursday. He'll be needed vs. ODU because Ben Hansbrough could use an occasional break per half to keep his legs underneath him for late-game jumpers and free throws (Tory Jackson doesn't leave the floor when the game is in relative doubt).

The senior can find the open man in transition and serve as a cutter in The Burn, but any perimeter offense Peoples provides at this point, is gravy. (He's 2-9 from beyond the arc since January 27).

Instant Energy – Jack Cooley

Remember him? Since Harangody's return vs. Marquette, Cooley has played 0, 2, 0, and 0 minutes. The initial 0 on the list was necessary, as the freshman big man couldn't have stayed near any of Marquette's myriad 6'7-and-under athletes. But Cooley's presence was needed on the boards vs. Pittsburgh, and he conceivably could have helped vs. the eventual champs, West Virginia, especially when Mountaineers backup point guard Joe Mazzulla waltzed down the lane for two relatively easy layups.

The Irish need his willingness to bang and knock down an opposing scoring threat in the coming weeks, most notably Thursday vs. Monarchs' 6'10" 250-pound center Gerald Lee.

Dance with Who Brung Ya – Mike Brey

The Big East coach-of-the-moment has completely changed his stripes. Yes, the Irish have gone from an up-tempo, perimeter oriented team that ran its offense through Luke Harangody to a defensive-focused, solid rebounding bunch that thrives with a spread-out floor and deliberate half-court offense.

But the bench is once again heavily populated by eligible players that will never remove their warmups and the team still relies heavily on its seniors, regardless of the talent available behind them in certain spots.

More important than the fan base's hope for deep and varied bench contributions is the fact that the South Bend Seven believe in their head coach and The Burn attack he approached them with prior to the contest at Louisville in mid-February.

The Notre Dame team of 2004 through mid-February 2009 would have lost by 15 to West Virginia in the semifinals. Down 46-38 with just over four minutes remaining, those squads would have chucked 3's like a group of 12-year-old kids let loose at recess. Instead, the late-February to present Irish patiently clawed their way back, one defensive stop at a time.

They expect to win, and will be in position to win twice this weekend.

Brey will never be my coach-of-choice for the game's final offensive possession…but he's become one on which the fan base can rely in the all-important 39-plus minutes leading up to the final shot.

And the Irish are due for another of those to go down as well.

Note: IrishEyes will have a final game preview of the matchup with Old Dominion early Thursday morning. Top Stories