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OH SO CLOSE...

Xavier Coach, Chris Mack, and Senior, Matt Stainbrook, embrace after a tough loss to Arizona in the Sweet 16. Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Xavier Coach, Chris Mack, and Senior, Matt Stainbrook, embrace after a tough loss to Arizona in the Sweet 16.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Still Elite

The 93rd men's basketball team in the history of Xavier University made their school incredibly proud last night. In a back and forth battle, the Xavier Musketeers fell to the Arizona Wildcats by a score of 68-60 and fell just short of a spot in the Elite 8.

Xavier may have lost the game on Thursday night in Los Angeles, but they sure did give Arizona everything they had every step of the way. Xavier's 1-3-1 zone defense stifled the Wildcats for most of the game and it seemed as if Arizona Coach, Sean Miller, was being out-coached by his former assistant, Chris Mack for much of the game. Senior Matt Stainbrook battled inside from the first minute until the last in pursuit of his 17 points and 10 rebounds. In the end, Xavier just couldn't hang on.

It wasn't a lack of heart or hustle. Chris Mack certainly wasn't out-coached. The players didn't collapse on the big stage playing in Los Angeles. Xavier was in that game against one of the very best teams in the country for every single minute until the last. Simply, when it came down to the final stretch Arizona made their shots and Xavier couldn't get them to fall. 

Minutes away from an Elite 8 has to be heartbreaking, but Xavier Basketball is a story that people won't soon forget. Year after year they find a way to get back to the Sweet 16. In fact, since 2008 the only other teams to have as many appearances as Xavier in the Sweet 16 are: Michigan State, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, Wisconsin, and Kansas. Notice anything about that list? Xavier is one of the elite basketball programs in the nation, and they consistently prove themselves to be one of, if not the best "mid-major" year after year. 

What makes Xavier Basketball so special? Why do they maintain such a high level of success? It all begins with personnel. Head Coach, Chris Mack, played for Xavier in his college career and has worked his way up through the ranks to become the head man in charge. He loves Xavier Basketball and he puts his passion into each and every practice and each and every game. From Pete Gillen to Skip Prosser to Thad Matta to Sean Miller and now Chris Mack, Xavier has an extremely rich coaching history and Mack fits right in on that list of coaching greats.

Not only is Mack a great coach, but he is also a great recruiter. Xavier consistently has a high ranked recruiting class, and that's not easy at a smaller school like XU. He recruits guys that are going to lay it all out on the floor each and every night. The two seniors who led this Team 93 to the Sweet 16 are perfect examples of that.

Matt Stainbrook, the Uber driver and transfer from Western Michigan, has exceeded all expectations. Stainbrook is the emotional and physical leader on the court for the Muskies each night. Take one look at him and most people assume he can't play. Funny thing is not many people can stop him. The announcers stated early against Arizona, that Stainbrook wouldn't have much chance against the Wildcat bigs. Stainbrook didn't care. He consistently backed down the Wildcats' defenders and owned the paint on his way to a double-double. Stainbrook walked off the court for the final time last night, but salute to the big man on a phenomenal career. 

Dee Davis, the Senior PG from Bloomington, Indiana, finished off a brilliant four year career for the Musketeers. Davis may not always have put up eye-catching numbers on the stat sheets, but his impact was immeasurable. He knocked down many huge shots, and came up with tons of big time steals over the years. Davis made all the hustle plays and always stepped up big when his team needed him. Dee Davis, congrats on a great career. 

The season has come to an end for Xavier's Team 93, but they can walk away with pride for everything they accomplished throughout the season; especially their trip to yet another Sweet 16 and their remarkable battle against the highly-talented Wildcats. The outstanding careers of Matt Stainbrook and Dee Davis have come to an end, so what's next for the Musketeers? Well all we do know is that they should never be counted out for another trip to the Sweet 16. Congrats to Coach Mack and the entire Xavier Basketball program on another impressive season for Xavier Nation to be proud of.


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