Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 3/18/14
The Welcome Wagon arrived early for Xavier's men's basketball team. As the 12th-seeded Musketeers participated in their open practice at UD Arena Monday night, a trio of red-clad Flyers fans hunkered down for some pre-NCAA tournament needling of their program's archrival. But Xavier's players and coaches focused on the task at hand, and that was preparing for 12th-seeded NC State and Tuesday's 9:10 p.m. first-round game. "I'm not sure whether we'll have a lot of red fans out there, but I think Xavier Nation will do a good job coming out," junior center Matt Stainbrook said in the pre-practice press conference. "And regardless, we have a team full of warriors. When you challenge a warrior, a warrior responds." Several of the press questions centered on Stainbrook himself. He saw limited action in the Musketeers' Big East tournament games due to his recent knee injury and has had only a brief respite since Friday's semifinal loss to Creighton at Madison Square Garden. Stainbrook said he was "good to go" for the NCAA tournament thanks, in part, to a cryogenic treatment designed to help his knee. He recently spent three minutes sitting in a tank that pumped in nitrogen to create negative-300 degree conditions. "It gives you the same effect of an ice bath for 15 to 20 minutes except it does a little better…sort of shocks your system, so it helps it out that way," said Stainbrook, who added it was "really, really cold." Junior guard Dee Davis also had the treatment in order to ease ailments. "I'm not a big fan of the cold," Davis said. "My three minutes were a lot longer than his three minutes." In the 24 hours after Xavier's name was called on CBS' selection show, the team squeezed in film sessions, walk-throughs and a trip up I-75. In the meantime, coach Mark Gottfried and the Wolfpack traveled some 500 miles for a second straight postseason appearance at UD Arena. Last March, eighth-seeded NC State lost to ninth-seeded Temple in a second-round NCAA tournament game on the Flyers' court. Senior center Jordan Vandenberg said the Pack wasn't even sure it would be back in the Big Dance this season. The team gathered, ate pizza and watched the selection show to find out. "We came in there not expecting much," Vandenberg said. "You could see from the video, we're all sitting there slumped in our seats. When our name was called, we all got really excited. We didn't know what was possible." ACC player of the year T.J. Warren, a 6-foot-8 forward who averages 24.8 points, has received the lion's share of the publicity for the young team, but junior guard Ralston Turner also makes it go. XU coach Chris Mack said Gottfried does a tremendous job of freeing Turner on screening actions. "When he's playing well and shooting at a high level, they're a different team," Mack said. While keeping NC State off the glass and preparing for Gottfried's array of defenses are keys to the game, Mack and Gottfried agreed that tournament play boils down to a team's reliance on its own identity. For Xavier, that includes limiting its opponent to one shot. As for the split loyalties at the game – well, Mack expects a little "oil and vinegar" but also a large contingent of XU fans.
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