Ever since the football season ended, I've been feeling some major Ewing Theory potential in the post Jimmy Clausen era. As great as Jimmy C was in the Weis offense, I'm intrigued by what Crist might bring to the table in terms of athleticism and mobility and leadership in the next couple years.
But now that we're heading down the home stretch in the basketball season, any one else getting an even bigger whiff of Ewing Theory with the basketball team?? I don't know if this team will be better next year without Luke Harangody, but suddenly things aren't looking so bad anymore now that we've seen this team play without him a few times.
I feel bad saying this, but I'd go as far as to say that if you polled all ND hoops fans today, I think the majority would be more interested in seeing what this team looks like the rest of the year without Harangody than how we look with him. There have been "Harangody fatigue" symptoms all year with the fanbase, and I think it might blow up when he comes back next week. Expect to see multiple "This team is better without Harangody" threads on the message boards after our next loss. Seems like the Louisville game might have been the tipping point now that we've seen the team play well in a game without him.
Now, don't get me wrong, Luke Harangody has been a great player at ND, and I don't want to give the impression that I don't appreciate his efforts for this basketball program. Harangody is the best individual player I've seen at ND since I've been following the program. An incredible scorer and rebounder, passionate player, very intelligent, great footwork and balance. How many times have we seen Gody throw this team on his back in the last three years and pour in 32 points and 14 rebounds in carrying us to a win?? He's had an amazing career without question, and the team would not have made the NCAAs without him in 2007 or 2008.
But in terms of what this TEAM needs in 2009-10, the current version of Luke Harangody might not be the best fit for this program. Let's be honest, Harangody is playing a different style of ball this year than he did in his first 2.5 or so years at ND. More like a small forward. He's freelancing on the perimeter, he's taking a ton of jumpers and threes, rarely follows his shot, and he's not playing any defense this year. None. He might be the worst defensive player in the league. Either he's saving himself for the offensive end, or he's just not interested in banging down low. Either explanation is not particularly flattering.
This team BADLY needed the 2006-2008 Luke Harangody who pounded the glass, camped out in the low block, got a body on people, and got to the free throw line a lot. The Luke Harangody who always seemed to be around the ball to tip in missed shots or drop little hooks in the paint and then followed up his own shot or get fouled. I loved that Luke Harangody. In his early years, it seemed like Gody would have 5-6 three point plays a game. Now, we're lucky to get one a game out of him. Not only are his rebounds down (even though he plays more minutes), but his free throw attempts are down too. We've become a team without an anchor in the middle.
The lesson that I'm learning from this whole Harangody thing is that once these guys "test the waters" with the NBA Draft, you're better off if they just get on with it and go pro. We've seen this with Chris Thomas and now Luke Harangody. The moment Harangody came back from the NBA draft camps, he turned into a different player. And honestly, I don't blame him for it. How could he not listen to all the scouts telling him he needed to show more of a perimeter game if he wanted to be a first round pick?? If scouts were telling me that, I'd be doing everything the next year to show that side of my game as well, even if it didn't fit with the team's needs. And to some degree, he has shown some abilities on the perimeter this year that he didn't have last year.
Trouble is, it hasn't really helped his draft stock, and it certainly hasn't helped the team. He was a 2nd rounder after last year, and he's a 2nd rounder now. And as great as he is individually, his goals haven't always been on the same page as the team's goals.
Maybe this is completely unfair to Luke. After all, he's been a fantastic player, and I really don't want to see his legacy tarnished (especially since he's coming up on some incredible individual accomplishments). And Brey does not help the situation out by giving his seniors free reign for the most part. But it's there, and there's a palpable sense that next year will be a breath of fresh air with a new core of players and leadership.
Anyway, next year is going to be interesting. The point guard situation is muddy, but the rest of the team actually looks better on paper in many ways. Cooley and Nash and Scott and Broghammer give us legitimate options down low, and we'll benefit from the addition of Martin and another year in the program for Joey Brooks. If we can get solid point guard play, this team might not be so bad after all and could actually be a pretty strong club by 2011.