Matt Stainbrook out with MCL strain

CINCINNATI -- Xavier center Matt Stainbrook has a strained ligament in his left knee, leaving the Musketeers to face No. 6 Villanova without their top rebounder.

The junior center hurt the knee during the first half of a 71-62 loss at Seton Hall on Monday night. The Musketeers (20-10, 10-7 Big East) initially feared he had suffered a more significant knee injury.

Tests on Tuesday detected a strained medial collateral ligament. Stainbrook will sit out Xavier's home game Thursday night against Villanova and will be game to game for the conference tournament as he recovers.

It's a major setback for Xavier, which is third in the Big East. Stainbrook is second in the league with 9.7 rebounds per game, anchoring a front line that has made Xavier the top defensive rebounding team in the Big East. Xavier also leads the league in rebounding margin.

Stainbrook averages 10.9 points per game, third on the team behind guard Semaj Christon and forward Justin Martin.

Xavier finishes its regular season with the home game against Villanova, then will have a week off before the conference tournament begins.

The Wildcats (26-3, 14-2) have a 1 1/2-game lead over No. 13 Creighton for the Big East's regular-season title. Xavier beat Creighton 75-69 on Saturday at the Cintas Center to break the two-way tie atop the league.