Thursday, March 13, 2008

New York, New York

...the city so nice, they named it twice. The other name is Manhattan.
-- Michael Scott

Hopefully the Irish basketball team isn't quite as star-struck as Pat's favorite character from The Office when they hit the floor tonight at Madison Square Garden. An exceptional 14-4 record in Big East play sewed up a first-round bye and the #3 seed for Mike Brey's team, who will face Marquette for the third time this season after a home-and-home split with the Team Formerly Known as the Warriors (MU took the Bradley Center meeting 92-66, Notre Dame returned the favor at the Joyce Center 86-83, a game made close by virtue of 10 points from Dominic James in the final 2:17).

In a year full of sporting surprises good and bad in NDNation, it's nice for the basketball team to have been such a pleasant one, punctuated yesterday with the announcement of Mike Brey as Big East Coach of the Year (for the second straight season, joining Lou Carnesecca and PJ Carlisemo as the only back-to-back winners) and sophomore forward Luke Harangody as Player of the Year. The 6'8" Schererville, IN native led the league in rebounding and scoring, the first player to do so since Troy Murphy, who was also the last Irish player to win the award and the last player to win the award multiple times (he took it home as a sophomore in 2000 and then repeated, after which he turned pro). Joining Harangody as a First Team All-Big East selection was Kyle McAlarney, completing a remarkable year for the Staten Island product that featured well-documented off-court issue, one that seemed to assure that he would never play for the Irish again. K-Mac proved everybody wrong. While it's great to see well-deserved honors laid upon two of the Irish's big stars, it was also somewhat disappointing to see that Rob Kurz & Tory Jackson failed to garner even honorable mention status.

Back to Harnagody for a moment, with stellar play comes plenty of press, and now the national media is starting to tune in to the 'Gody who exists off the court. Already with a more than passing resemblance to Murphy when he's dominating the low post, 'Gody too has a personality all his own. Murph, of course, gained notoriety not just for ranking in the national top 10 in rebounding and scoring, but also for writing REDRUM on his sneakers (fans of The Shining will get the reference) and joking as he approached the free throw line that he couldn't wait to get to the Steak'N'Shake. This week's Sports Illustrated had a great feature article on the man alternatively known as Bamm-Bamm or LFH (guess what the F stands for), complete with wonderful side notes about his merry prankster ways. As always, it's the human element we appreciate the most, as SI relayed Luke's penchant for falling down, Chevy Chase-style, "just to break up the monotony." Like every calling card though, it has its downside and proves that not even the Great 'Gody is immune from the occasional moment of self-consciousness:
On an after-midnight run to a nearby IHOP in December, some teammates dared Harangody to approach a table of girls, say a line from A Night at the Roxbury (" 'Sup? You from out of town?") and then fall. He chickened out in mid-sentence, beelined into the men's bathroom, accidentally slamming open a loose door in the process, "and then walked back to the table, where we were dying laughing, in like two seconds," says Zach Hillesland.
UND.com All-Access has the full-court press on for this week's escape to New York, as well as highlight reels dedicated to both McAlarney and Harangody.

And, of course, there's this:

video

Enjoy tonight's game. Go Irish.

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