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Player Preview: Matt Stainbrook

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Xavier's center arrived on campus with questions around him and spent last year answering them all positively. Can he make another jump this year?

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As a quick reminder, if you are looking for any of the previous player previews, a look at a non-conference opponent, or anything pertaining to the upcoming season, the Season Preview 2014 main page can be accessed by clicking the link at the top of this page, or be chosen under the sections tab on the site header.

Matt Stainbrook came to Xavier as an enigmatic known quantity. What was know about Matt was enticing. He was a space eating classic center with some shot blocking ability who could fill it up when given the opportunity. What was also know was that Stainbrook was out of shape and possibly had some attitude issues. The question was whether transferring to a major program and working with Coach Chris Mack would be the solution to getting the best out of the talented big man.

That question started to be answered before the bespectacled Stain Train ever took the floor for Xavier. First, Matt dropped about an eighth grader worth of weight. After that came a sartorial tour de force as he wait to become eligible. Bowties and suit jackets that your grandfather probably though were dope (or whatever grandfathers think) quickly added to the appeal of the genuinely affable big man.

None of that would have mattered though, if he couldn't produce on the floor. While very pleasant and engaging off court, it quickly become evident that the Stain Train on the court was an entirely different proposition. Flashing athleticism that his weight had previously limited to go with a savvy he had already developed, Stainbrook dominated the defensive glass to the tune of a 24% defensive rebounding rate, good for 49th in the nation. Opponents who ventured into the lane were reminded of Xavier's new presence with an array of body bumps, elbows, and play generally befitting someone who hails from Cleveland.

Stainbrook was more than just a monster on the glass and in the lane, though. On his way to the best offensive efficiency of any player on the team other than James Farr (of course), Stainbrook also grabbed 12.1% of the offensive rebounds available, shot 55% from the floor, 69% from the line, managed a 19.3% assist rate much more befitting a starting guard, and put up a 10.6/7.4/2.2 triple slash line. Outside of Semaj Christon, Xavier had no better offensive weapon.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news for the big man. All the training in the world won't turn Matt into a svelte man, and that showed in the 58.9% of Xavier's minutes that he played. More troublingly, Matt strained an MCL near the end of last season and was limited until showing out with 19 points in the play-in game against NC State. Still, injury is never a good thing, and injuries to the knees of man of Matt's size carry with them a harbinger of further things. There's no reason to believe he's carrying that into this year, but it will be something worth keeping an eye on.

Best case scenario:

Stainbrook plays more minutes. Bigs in Coach Mack's system have never been the focal point and have not generally played a lot. Jamel McLean and Travis Taylor both managed to eclipse the 70% mark in minutes played, but their style of play and Stainbrook's are not exactly comparable. Jason Love in 2010 played 67% of the available minutes. If Stainbrook hits that number and even maintains the efficiency he had last year, he will be one of the best centers in the nation.

Worst case scenario:

Rebounding and back to the basket play aren't skills as volatile as those that keep the guards on the floor, so it's hard to see a major step down from the Stain Train unless injury strikes. With someone of Stainbrook's size and consistent effort, injury is always a worry. Being betrayed by his body either in conditioning or injury is the most likely of Matt Stainbrook's worst case scenarios.

Most likely scenario:

Maybe it's the Cleveland connection, or maybe it is just rose colored glasses, but I think Stainbrook will come close to his best case scenario. A line of 13/9/3 is a very real possibility.