Tuesday night West Region No. 11 Ole Miss was able to advance into the Round of 64 with a 94-90 win over BYU, scoring 62 points in the second half of that game. Faced with a far more formidable opponent from a defensive standpoint on Thursday, the Rebels’ season came to an end with a 76-57 loss to No. 6 Xavier.
Chris Mack’s Musketeers knocked down ten three-pointers, and in the second half they shot 55.6 percent from the field to put away a game they grabbed control of in the latter stages of the first half. Matt Stainbrook controlled things in the post for Xavier, tallying 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists. and guard Dee Davis added 17 points to lead the way offensively. Stainbrook’s fingerprints were all over the game offensively, with his skill set proving to be too much for Ole Miss to handle.
However for as good as they were at time offensively, what was even more impressive for the Musketeers Thursday afternoon was their play on the defensive end.
Ole Miss shot jut 32.9 percent from the field, and while some of that could be attributed to fatigue as they expended a lot of energy in Dayton two nights ago, the biggest issue for Andy Kennedy’s team was that Xavier didn’t allow them to establish much of anything. Stefan Moody, who was outstanding against BYU, scored 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting and more often than not the Rebels resorted to attempting challenged jump shots.
Ole Miss attempted 17 more shots on the afternoon, and in addition to shooting 6-for-27 from three they only attempted five free throws (making three). By comparison, Xavier shot 10-for-23 from three and 14-for-21 from the foul line as they were able to get better shots on their end of the floor.
Next up for Xavier is Georgia State, which edged No. 3 Baylor on an R.J. Hunter three-pointer with 2.9 seconds remaining. In order to advance to the Sweet 16 the Musketeers will need to be efficient offensively while also clamping down on the other end, and they’re definitely capable of doing so.
Xavier center gave up scholarship, became an Uber driver, so his brother could use the scholarship
Xavier senior center Matt Stainbrook is the leading returning scorer and rebounder for the Musketeers this season, but the 6-foot-10 big man won’t be on scholarship.
That’s because Stainbrook opted to give up his basketball scholarship in order to give it to his younger brother, Tim, who was a freshman walk-on with Xavier last season. Matt Stainbrook, instead, will be one of the most productive walk-ons in college basketball this season.
Also wanting to live off-campus, which is tough to do at Xavier while on athletic scholarship, Matt decided he’d help out his parents and his brother by becoming a walk-on and earning some extra money as an Uber driver to help offset the difference.
“For my MBA, I think it costs about $14,000 a year. For undergrad, which is what Tim’s in, it’s like ($43,000). So even with the scholarship for academics he was getting, which wasn’t a ton, it’s a lot more expensive. I was like, ‘OK, I haven’t had any student loans in the past four years. Tim has worked hard. It’s not like the guy doesn’t deserve it.’ It made sense to me,” Matt Stainbrook said to Russell in the story.
Matt opting to transfer his basketball scholarship to his younger brother is a very generous and responsible move, but the idea of a 6-foot-10 Big East center as an Uber driver is mind-blowing.
Because Uber allows its drivers to work when they want, and log offline if they’re busy, it works out nicely with Stainbrook’s crowded schedule as a basketball player and MBA student.
If you ever had a car on campus as a college student like I did, you know that people will often ask for rides. So why not take advantage of that and make some extra money? Between Stainbrook saving his family money and using the resources he had to his advantage to earn extra money on the side, I’d say he’s going to put that future MBA to good use once he’s finished with his basketball career.
The 10-team Big East debuted during the 2013-14 season. The relaunch season featured national player of the year Doug McDermott, who went on to be a lottery pick, and Villanova, which ended up being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Villanova will remain a top-15 team heading into the 2014-15 season. After the Wildcats, there are several teams with questions that also have the tools to solve them over the course of the next five months.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. Villanova will build off last season: The Wildcats had a disappointing finish to their 2013-14 campaign, but heading into this year, Jay Wright will have a more seasoned team. He gets four starters back, including Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Archidiacono. Villanova will be the flag bearers for the Big East as the only team ranked in the preseason. The Wildcats can make a statement in the non-conference, as they did last season, with games against VCU (potentially Michigan), Illinois and Syracuse.
2. St. John’s will go dancing again: In Steve Lavin’s first season at St. John’s, the Red Storm reached the NCAA tournament — Mike Dunlap, now at Loyola Marymount, was coaching while Lavin battled cancer — and hauled in a heralded recruiting class. The Johnnies won 20 games last season, but they did no favors by digging themselves into an 0-5 hole to begin Big East play. It’s been three seasons since St. John’s went dancing, and it would take some heat off Lavin and help the growth of the new Big East if the Red Storm could get back in 2015. And, if everything comes together, they should. D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Green IV and Sir’Dominic Pointer — all part of that heralded recruiting class — are now seniors. Chris Obekpa reversed his decision to transfer and, most importantly, x-facotr Rysheed Jordan is coming off a promising freshman campaign.
3. Despite significant losses, Xavier has plenty of depth: Semaj Christon was drafted in the second round and Justin Martin decided to use his last year of eligibility at SMU. Despite the losses, Chris Mack will have plenty of options with six returners and seven newcomers — six freshmen and Indiana transfer Remy Abell. Seniors Matt Stainbrook and Dee Davis are back while Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis could both be in line for big seasons.
4. Providence adds McDonald’s All-American: Kris Dunn was rated the top point guard in 2012 by Rivals. His collegiate career has gotten off to a slow start thanks to nagging shoulder issues that occurred before the start of his freshman season, limiting him to 29 games in two years. A redshirt sophomore, Dunn is finally healthy, giving Ed Cooley a lead guard to help fill the void left behind by Bryce Cotton. Add in LaDontae Henton, an all-conference caliber forward, and the Friars have a nice one-two punch.
5. March failure: The mark of a conference is how it fares in March. The 1985 Final Four featured three Big East teams, serving as the benchmark of NCAA tournament success. In 2014, the new Big East had 40 percent of the league dancing, only to hear the music stop playing after the first weekend. Xavier lost in the First Four, Providence nearly upset North Carolina, Creighton was caught in an unfavorable matchup against Baylor and Villanova was bounced by the eventual national champion UConn Huskies. Success in March will continue to be a topic of discussion for the Big East.
PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists en route to all-Big East second team honors. He finished top 10 in scoring and was one of the best rebounding guards in the conference. This season, with the graduation of Markel Starks, Smith-Rivera will also be tasked with handling the ball for the Hoyas.
THE REST OF THE BIG EAST FIRST TEAM:
D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s: Harrison is the conference’s top returning scorer, trailing only Doug McDermott and Bryce Cotton in points per game at 17.7 in 2013-14.
Darrun Hilliard, Villanova: The Big East Most Improved Player from a season ago averaged 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the conference’s top team.
JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova: The 6-foot-7 forward’s points, rebounds and shooting percentage all went up from sophomore to junior seasons. Arguably the best big man in the Big East.
Matt Stainbrook, Xavier: The Western Michigan transfer made an immediate impact last season with six double-doubles. The 6-foot-10 center will take on a greater role after the Musketeers lost several key players this spring.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Kellen Dunham, Butler
LaDontae Henton, Providence
Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
BREAKOUT STAR: Deonte Burton, Marquette
The former four-star recruit saw only 12.6 minutes of action a night, but was able to score 6.9 points per game during his freshman season at Marquette. The 6-foot-4 power wing showed what he could do in extended minutes last season with a season-high 23 points (in 24 minutes) in the last game of the year against Xavier in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Oliver Purnell, DePaul
There are several coaches feeling the heat heading into this season. But the hottest seat in the Big East belongs to Oliver Purnell at DePaul. The Blue Demons are 9-57 in the Big East over the last four years. And it’s not like he’s stockpiling young talent either. A handful of players have signed their letter of intent to play at DePaul, only to never play a single game.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : This league could be in line for five bids, but what if they only get one?
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : A rivalry starting … somewhere … anywhere
At Big East Media Day I asked Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who’s been around the Big East basketball since he was a child, about rivalries in the new league. “You know, the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry didn’t happen in one year,” he said. It took battle after battle to develop those fiery rivalries back in the 1980s. In Year 2 of the Big East relaunch, hopefully we’ll start to see the foundation set for a new rivalry whether it be close game followed by an even better rematch, or controversial call that the losing team doesn’t forget the next time those two teams meet. Sooner or later a new rivalry will unfold.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
Nov. 24, Villanova vs. VCU at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Nov. 26, Georgetown at Florida
Dec. 6, St. John’s at Syracuse
Dec. 10, Georgetown vs. Kansas
Dec. 20, Butler vs. Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
1. Villanova: The unanimous pick to finish atop the conference standings for the second season in a row. Jay Wright has four starters back, as the Villanova adapts to having the target on its back.
2. Georgetown: With arguably the conference’s best player, the Hoyas look to bounce back from their 8-10 record in conference. Big question: how much of an impact will Josh Smith have?
3. St. John’s: Maybe the league’s most talented team, St. John’s has the pieces to not only finish in the top half of the conference, but could also be a threat to heavy favorite Villanova.
4. Xavier: The league’s deepest team will benefit from having seniors Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook. That senior leadership can help the Musketeers reach their eighth NCAA tournament since 2007.
5. Providence: A healthy Kris Dunn helps combat the loss of PC’s two starting guards. Ed Cooley will have several young players who will need to make an impact. Come March, Friars could be back in the top 3.
6. Marquette: Hiring Steve Wojciechowski was a good move in the long run, but his Golden Eagles could surprise the rest of the league behind graduate transfer Matt Carlino and potential breakout star Deonte Burton.
7. Seton Hall: With five-star shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, the Pirates bring in the conference’s top recruiting class.
8. Butler: Having Kellen Dunham back and Roosevelt Jones healthy is big for the Bulldogs, but for a program that has gone through a whirlwind of changes over the last five years, is this another transitional season?
9. Creighton: Greg McDermott and Co. are bound for a rebuilding season after graduating Doug McDermott and three other starters.
10. DePaul: The cellar is the likely destination for DePaul once again this season. Sophomore Billy Garrett Jr. is worth watching, though.
With Semaj Christon entering the 2014 NBA Draft and Justin Martin deciding to transfer, Xavier’s leading returning scorer in 2014-15 will be senior big man Matt Stainbrook. A transfer from Western Michigan Stainbrook enjoyed a solid season in his Xavier debut, posting averages of 10.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
However Stainbrook wasn’t 100% during Xavier’s late-season run to the NCAA tournament, with a strained MCL in his left knee forcing him to miss one game and play in pain during the Musketeers’ final three games. So while the offseason offers players the opportunity to hone their skills, in the case of Stainbrook it will also give him the time needed to get healthy.
“I found out two weeks ago that I didn’t need to have surgery, which is a good thing. Based on rehab and stuff we’ve done, my MCL was tightening up on its own and I’ll be able to be OK in a couple weeks,” Stainbrook said.
Stainbrook was an important cog in the Xavier attack in 2013-14, and with the aforementioned departures he’ll once again be a key player for head coach Chris Mack. Xavier also lost forward Isaiah Philmore, and the hope is that their highly-regarded recruiting class will be able to handle the rigors of the Big East.
And considering how young Xavier will be (just four scholarship upperclassmen), leadership is another area in which experienced players such as Stainbrook and rising senior guard Dee Davis will be important for Xavier. If Stainbrook, who also aims to play at a weight between 250 and 255 pounds according to the story, can get back to full strength and build on his solid junior season the Musketeers will surely benefit.
Xavier got some excellent news on Tuesday when it was announced that starting center Matt Stainbrook only strained his MCL.
Stainbrook landed awkwardly in Monday’s loss to Seton Hall, immediately grabbing his left knee and screaming in pain. It looked like the injury could be quite serious, but according to Xavier, he’s out for Saturday’s game with Villanova and will be listed as day-to-day after that.
“Everybody’s knee responds differently. We won’t know a whole lot,” head coach Chris Mack said. “Doctors certainly have not ruled him out from returning for the Big East tournament and hopefully beyond.”
The one potential problem here is that the next two games could end up determining Xavier’s bubble fate. If they lose to Villanova and lose in the first round of the Big East tournament, there is no guarantee that they will be dancing. And even though freshman big man Jalen Reynolds has been playing better of late, losing a guy that has started 30 games and averages 10.6 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds certainly won’t make that easier.
Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook commits to Xavier
Xavier (literally) got some big help in the frontcourt on Monday afternoon, as 6-9, 290-pound Western Michigan transfer Matt Stainbrook tweeted that he would be headed to play for Chris Mack.
He chose Xavier over Wright State and Bradley.
“After visiting, it was basically the academics, the athletics and the success they’ve had in the past,” Stainbrook told MLive.com of Xavier. “All of those schools are great schools. It came down to needing to have all three of those things.”
In his sophomore season, Stainbrook averaged 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, shooting 58% from the field for the Broncos.
“I’m looking at it as a fresh start,” he said. “It’s a clean slate for everything. I’m going to try to make the most of that.”
Seven-foot center Kenny Frease is graduating this year so, after sitting out a season, per NCAA rules, Stainbrook could help with that vacancy in the frontcourt.
Xavier finished 23-13 on the year, including 10-6 in the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers lost to Baylor in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.