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Monday Morning Water Cooler: Post-Feast Week debrief

It’s back to the grind after a basketball-filled holiday break.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at St. Mary’s D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday morning and welcome to the Water Cooler.

The first day back in the office after a long holiday weekend is always a brutal one. I don’t want to be here. You don’t want to be here. You probably ate and drank far more than you should have, as did I. Today is going to be a slog.

Hopefully you spent the holidays with family, friends, or whatever may bring you peace in this world. There was a lot of exciting basketball and it’s hard to keep tabs on it all during the chaos that Thanksgiving brings. I know I wasn’t able to! But we’re gonna give it a go.

Open up that email inbox, set up your IV drip of caffeine, and let’s get reacclimated with some hoops talk.

Saint Mary’s won the huge matchup with Utah State

It was late — very late — on Friday night, but Saint Mary’s and Utah State met in Moraga for one of the most highly anticipated mid-major tilts of the entire non-conference slate. And it delivered! After 13 ties and 23 lead changes, the Gaels ultimately pulled it out with a 81-73 win to hand the then No. 15 Aggies their first loss of the season.

The second half was a masterful performance from Jordan Ford as he showed just why he’s one of the most entertaining and dangerous guards in the country. He scored 22 of his game-high 27 points with a flurry of three’s off the bounce and runners in the lane. The way that Ford is able to combine his handle and quickness to generate open looks with ease never gets old, and Friday night was a classic Ford showing.

The Gaels have done a great job of capitalizing on their key non-conference opportunities so far with wins over Wisconsin and now Utah State. Another monster tilt awaits on Sunday when they’ll get a Dayton team with a fresh Maui bump in Phoenix.

Malachi Flynn is exactly what San Diego State needs

They’ve flown a little bit under the radar, but the Aztecs are off to a red hot start. The latest feather in their cap was Friday night’s win against Iowa in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational to improve to 8-0, which is their best start since the 2010-11 season in which they won their first 20 games of the season.

One of the major catalysts of the Aztecs’ hot start has been the play of Washington State transfer guard Malachi Flynn. At 16.1 points per game, Flynn leads the Aztecs in scoring while also dishing out over five assists per game. He’s shooting it well from deep at over 40 percent, and only averages 1.4 turnovers per game. Flynn’s skillset has given San Diego State something that they’ve struggled to find over the last few years, which is a guard that can go out and get his own shot anywhere on the floor. That was on full display on Friday when Flynn’s 28 points helped the Aztecs overcome a nine-point halftime deficit.

As of Sunday night, San Diego State sits at No. 36 in Kenpom, and may even be ranked in the AP Poll on Monday. The Aztecs are legit and have done a great job at laying the groundwork for a strong tournament resume. Malachi Flynn has been a big reason why.

The weekend in brutality

You thought brutality took the holidays off? OH HELL NO IT DIDN’T! Saturday delivered three brutalities to bring the season total to 26.

UNC Greensboro picked up a marquee win against Georgetown primarily thanks to a stout defensive performance. In the 65-61 win, the Spartans held the Hoyas to just 0.87 points per possession with 19 turnovers. Wes Miller once again has UNCG humming along. The Spartans are now 6-2, have cracked the top 100 of Kenpom, and are holding teams to just 0.917 points per possession. Expect the Spartans to be in the mix for the SoCon title race.

In mid-on-mid violence, St. Francis PA thoroughly handled Saint Joe’s in Philly. Keith Braxton put in his best game of the season thus far with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The Red Flash should be one of the favorites in the NEC.

It’s always great when the SWAC gets involved in brutality, even if it’s at the hands of another mid-major. Prairie View A&M dealt UTSA its sixth loss of the season on Saturday, winning 79-72. The Roadrunners are now 1-6 and are yet to beat a Division I team. It’s a good thing there weren’t any college basketball bloggers that hyped up UTSA in the preseason.

Ah! Well, nevertheless.

VCU missed out on a pair of huge opportunities

I watched more of the VCU-Purdue game on Friday night than I care to admit. Quite honestly, it was one of the most miserable games I’ve watched so far this season. Neither team cracked 60 points, they combined to shoot 7-33 from behind the arc, and the Rams turned it over 21 times. The game was physical, sloppy, and generally had no flow. It was bad basketball! Marcus Santos-Silva wound up as the only player in double digits for VCU as Purdue ultimately won.

The Rams squandered a shot at Tennessee as well on Saturday, but this time it was the defense that struggled. The typically stingy VCU defense allowed the Vols to score 1.09 points per possession, which is the highest mark for an opponent this season. And when it mattered most, Lamonte Turner put the nail in the coffin just before the buzzer.

When Selection Sunday hits, we’ll probably look back on this weekend as one that could have really helped the Rams with seeding or even as one that keeps them out of the field entirely.

Other news, notes, tidbits

  • The list of undefeated teams has dwindled to five as we enter December: San Diego State, Liberty, Duquesne, UTEP, Delaware.
  • The list of winless teams is a little bit longer: Houston Baptist, Holy Cross, Florida A&M, Kennesaw State, Howard, Central Connecticut, Maryland Eastern Shore.
  • In their only home game against a Division I opponent on the non-conference slate, Texas Southern picked up a win against Lamar over the weekend. The Tigers also beat Northern Kentucky earlier this season in double overtime. With the way that Texas Southern’s non-conference shakes out every year with essentially nothing but buy games, it’s a pleasant change to see them be able to pick up a win at home.
  • The aftermath of Stephen F. Austin’s upset of Duke has been fun to track due to the outpouring of support for Nathan Bain’s family via a GoFundMe set up by SFA. The New York Times had an interesting story about the dilemma that SFA faces with doling out the $137,000 in funds raised.
  • The announcer here is me when my plate of nachos come out juuuuuuuuust right.
  • Locker room celebrations are always a ton of fun. Here’s Niagara’s after Greg Paulus’s first win as a head coach.
  • Sacred Heart’s Cameron Parker set the record for assists in a single game with 24 on Sunday. The opponent? Pine Manor College, a Division III school in Massachusetts. Oh, and Parker scored zero points in the game.
  • These jerseys are fantastic.
  • It’s upsetting to hear that Big Red is 40. In an alternate universe, he’s working middle management at a mid-sized health insurance company’s underwriting department, drives a Kia Sorento and has two kids. Instead, he’s a mascot.

On tap this week

Monday

Furman at South Florida, ESPN3
Columbia at Delaware, FloSports
South Dakota at Washington, Pac-12 Networks

Tuesday

Arizona State at San Francisco, CBSSN
Western Kentucky at Wright State, ESPN+
Vermont at Cincinnati, CBSSN
UTEP at New Mexico State
Lipscomb at Belmont, ESPN+

Wednesday

BYU at Utah, Pac-12 Networks
San Diego State at Colorado State, Stadium/Facebook
Boise State at New Mexico, Stadium/Facebook
Penn at Villanova, Fox Sports 1
South Carolina at UMass, CBSSN

Thursday

Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State, SEC Network+
Furman at Auburn, SEC Network
Oklahoma at North Texas, CBSSN

Friday

Providence at Rhode Island, ESPN2
Stephen F. Austin at Alabama, SEC Network+