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Matt Stainbrook as a Glue Guy

On a balanced and deep Xavier squad, the big man in the middle fills in all the cracks.

Matt Stainbrook has it on lock.
Matt Stainbrook has it on lock.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

A glue guy can be a vital component of a high-level college basketball team. He is someone who can fill in the cracks wherever the coach needs him and be a versatile force on both ends of the floor. The idea of a glue guy conjures images of a dude with knee pads and a mouthpiece throwing himself to the floor to keep a possession alive or beat an opponent to a 50-50 ball. He's not the player who is going to lead the team in shots or get the head cheerleader's attention (or whatever it is the cool kids are striving for now), but he does hold a special place in the hearts of the coaching staff and the fan base.

I don't know what you were expecting of Matt Stainbrook when he came in, but I'm doubting it was that he would become the mortar holding the parts of this Xavier team together. There were questions about his attitude and work ethic, he had a body that was more Will Farrell than Wilt Chamberlain, and he was laboring away at a school that was less than a national powerhouse. Even 11 games into the season, it wasn't until I was poking around (seriously, spend the twenty bucks) that I had an epiphany: Matt Stainbrook, despite being a 6'10" center, is this team's glue guy.

We'll start with the obvious stuff, which is his work on the glass. With an OReb% of 14.5% and a DReb% of 25.5%, Stainbrook is ranked in the top 75 in the nation in both of those categories. While guys like Jalen Reynolds (when he's not actively fouling) and James Farr rebound with help from their lanky frames and incredible leaping ability, it wasn't an oversight that Stainbrook didn't participate in the Musketeer Madness dunk contest. Instead, he's all blood and guts in the paint, a real estate rebounder in the mold of Jason Love. He buries himself in as good position as he can get and fights for every ball coming off the rim; size, effort, and repetition are the keys to Matt's rebounding numbers.

On offense, Stainbrook has come as advertised as a reliable if somewhat unspectacular finisher specializing in a variety sweeping moves to his left hand. His shooting line of .536/.000/.680 is pretty much what you'd hope for from a big man who isn't the focus of the offense. Where he has perhaps surprised is his acumen with the ball in his hands. It's one thing to be able to read a double team in the post and choose whether to wait it out, attack it, or kick to an open man, and Stainbrook does that exceptionally well. It's an entirely different ball of wax for a big man to be comfortable handling 15, 20, or even 60 feet from his own bucket.

In his post-game interview with Byron and Joe after the Shootout, Coach Mack said of Xavier's press break that "when Matt has the ball in his hands, I know he's going to make a great decision with it." The Stain Train was laying tracks deep into the back court, providing a release for the guards against UC's trapping press. Once he got the ball in a central position, he was picking out runners and helping X get across the time line with a minimum of fuss. He has also shown the ability to pop to the high post or the top of the key to feed cutters or simply aid in ball reversal, and he has done all of this while still keeping his TO rate better than that of anyone else getting even 40% of the team's minutes.

Finally, his work on the defensive end has been equal parts obvious and subtle. Being able to kill possessions with defensive boards is an obvious plus, and he does that as discussed above. He also has the size to defend opposing post players without needing too much help from his teammates. When you're 6'10", people expect you to block shots, and Stainbrook's block% (the percentage of opponents' two-point attempts he blocks) of 7.5% is both best on the team and 98th in the country, which is none too shabby. No Muskie has finished a season with a block% that high since Brian Thornton posted an 8.9% in 2006. Thanks in part to the profligacy of the UC Bearcats, Stainbrook is also secondo n the team in steal%; I'm not sure that will last all year, but the dude is everywhere right now.

Stainbrook has a couple of rough edges to hone yet. His minutes have been limited by foul trouble at times (he's called for 4.2 fouls every 40 minutes he plays) and he does throw up the odd 6-15 game every now and then. Still, a year ago he was endearing himself to fans with nothing but his sartorial versatility; now he's displaying a skill set as rich and varied as his collection of bowties, and Xavier is better for it.