The season started with Point Pleasant Beach as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference and the Garnet Gulls have only enhanced their status as the Shore Conference Tournament favorite since that time. The rest of the conference, however, has the makings of a wild tournament.

Christian Brothers Academy – the other team with a perfect record against the Shore Conference – has dominated division competition, but has not faced a single Shore Conference teams outside of Class A North. The rest of the teams in the field have their fair share of upside, but each has also shown some measure of vulnerability.

The last time there was this kind of favorite in the Shore Conference Tournament was in 2010, when CBA rolled to its second consecutive title with only one team – Point Beach, fittingly enough – pushing the Colts to the end. Point Beach might be an even heavier favorite considering the Garnet Gulls have not won a game against a Shore Conference opponent by fewer than 17 points.

Because of the weather this past week, the Shore Conference Executive Board is allowing teams that are at least one game under a .500 winning percentage into the tournament instead of only teams with a .500 record or better. That put the field at 28, with the top four teams earning byes.

Regardless of the final result, this year’s Shore Conference Tournament should provide a great ride. The official seeds come out on Sunday afternoon Here is one last look at where everyone will be sitting on the roller coaster.

Senior Ben Watson (44) celebrates Lakewood's 2013 Shore Conference Tournament championship, the team's first in 22 years. Lakewood figures to be a top-five seed again this season. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

 

1. Point Pleasant Beach (21-1, 14-0)

Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keansburg (2), Keyport (2), Mater Dei Prep (2), Ranney (2), St. Rose (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: Union, Colonia, Jackson Memorial, Brighton (Mass.), vs. Lakewood, at Middletown North, vs. Long Branch
Non-Division Losses: Patrick School
Why They’re Here: This spot is not going to be up for debate. Point Beach played a schedule similar to CBA and has won more of its challenging out-of-division games. It also helps that Point Beach had the Patrick School on the ropes a couple of weeks after CBA lost to the Celtics by 20-plus. The Garnet Gulls are the top seed and the heavy favorite.

2. Christian Brothers Academy (13-4, 12-0)

Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Howell (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro (2), Middletown North (2), Middletown South (2), at Freehold Township
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: Franklin (Mass.)
Non-Division Losses: At West Orange, DeMatha (Md.), St. Anthony, Patrick School
Why They’re Here: The Colts are a little more dangerous as a roster than Lakewood is, but if Lakewood wanted to make its case for the No. 2 seed, it would not be far-fetched. With a win over Marlboro on Saturday, CBA would have seven wins over tournament teams, but only one win against the top 10 and no wins against a N.J. team outside of its division. That would be the case, but as you can see by the projection, it's a case I'm not quite buying.

3. Lakewood (19-3, 14-0)

Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Central (2), Jackson Liberty (2), Manchester (2), Monsignor Donovan (2), Pinelands (2), Point Boro (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: Irvington, Sussex Tech (De.), Union City, at Neptune, Chester (Pa.)
Non-Division Losses: Rancocas Valley, at Long Branch, at Point Beach
Why They’re Here: The Piners are probably the third best team right now, and Matawan’s loss to Freehold gives Lakewood a clear path to the No. 3 seed. The loss to Long Branch will come up in the meeting, but a convincing win over Neptune and a very impressive schedule overall should carry more weight than a one-point road loss earlier in the year.

4. Manasquan (15-2, 12-1)

Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Monmouth (2), Raritan (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), St. John Vianney (2), Shore (2), vs. Red Bank Catholic
Division Losses: at Red Bank Catholic
Non-Division Wins: Roselle, Colts Neck, at Wall
Non-Division Losses: Shore
Why They’re Here: With a win at Shore on Tuesday, Manasquan now has a resume that has very few holes. It would still be nice to see the Warriors play more challenging games outside the division, especially considering the rest of the A Central tournament teams are 4-8 against tournament teams outside the division, but the bottom line is the Warriors are one of the four best teams right now and there is no red flag to suggest otherwise.

5. Matawan (17-3, 10-2)

Division Wins: Long Branch (2), Ocean (2), Red Bank (2), Wall (2), at Freehold, vs. Neptune
Division Losses: at Neptune, vs. Freehold
Non-Division Wins: vs. Manalapan, vs. Our Savior Lutheran (N.Y.), vs. Tottenville (N.Y.), vs. Howell, vs. St. John Vianney, vs. Raritan, at Holmdel
Non-Division Losses: vs. Union
Why They’re Here: Losing to Freehold on Tuesday probably cost Matawan a chance at a No. 3 seed, but there is still a reasonable argument to be made for a top-four seed and a bye, or perhaps even a top-three seed. Matawan beat Long Branch twice and Lakewood lost to the Green Wave head-to-head, but ultimately, the entire body of work will probably give Lakewood the edge.

6. Long Branch (12-6, 8-4)

Division Wins: Freehold (2), Ocean (2), Wall (2), vs. Neptune, vs. Red Bank
Division Losses: Matawan (2), at Neptune, at Red Bank
Non-Division Wins: Elizabeth, Marist, vs. Lakewood, vs. Freehold Twp.
Non-Division Losses: Seton Hall Prep, at Point Beach
Why They’re Here: At this point, Long Branch’s win over Lakewood carries enough weight to keep the Green Wave in the top seven, which is where most of the teams in this area will try to position themselves. Although Neptune finished a game ahead of Long Branch in B North, the Green Wave have a better record vs. common opponents because of wins over Lakewood and Marist.

7. Neptune (11-7, 9-3)

Division Wins: Freehold (2), Ocean (2), Wall (2), vs. Long Branch, vs. Matawan, vs. Red Bank
Division Losses: at Long Branch, at Matawan, at Red Bank
Non-Division Wins: vs. Elizabeth, Shore
Non-Division Losses: vs. Marist, vs. Seton Hall Prep, vs. Lakewood, at Trenton
Why They’re Here: The Scarlet Fliers would have locked up No. 5 with a win over Neptune, but the loss drops them to No. 7 because of a less record than Long Branch against common opponents. If one believes that Point Beach is a level above CBA, it might be better to be the No. 6 or No. 7 seed than the No. 5.

8. Jackson Memorial (16-5, 11-2)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Brick Memorial (2), Toms River North (2), Toms River East (2), Toms River South (2), vs. Lacey
Division Losses: Southern (2)
Non-Division Wins: Freehold Twp. (2), Brick, Point Boro, at St. Rose
Non-Division Losses: Manchester, Point Beach, at Notre Dame
Why They’re Here: Although Jackson Memorial lost twice to Southern, those are the Jaguars’ only two losses in the division. This is the part of the seeding in which every team is going to have a wart of some kind, and as the Class A South winner, Jackson Memorial has the most solid case for a top-10 spot.

9. Freehold Township (15-6, 11-2)

Division Wins: Howell (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro (2), Middletown North (2), Middletown South (2), vs. Colts Neck
Division Losses: vs. CBA, at Colts Neck
Non-Division Wins: Central, Red Bank Catholic, vs. Freehold, at Brick Memorial
Non-Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), Toms River South, at Long Branch
Why They’re Here: The Patriots have played a good non-division schedule, which helps considering that Class A North is down this year compared to years past. An early-season win over Red Bank Catholic is a big positive and a recent win over Brick Memorial should also keep the Patriots over some of the A South teams.

10. Red Bank Catholic (14-4, 11-2)

Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Monmouth (2), Raritan (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), vs. Manasquan, vs. St. John Vianney, vs. Shore
Division Losses: at Manasquan, at Shore
Non-Division Wins: Lacey, Point Boro, vs. Wall
Non-Division Losses: Freehold Twp., at Red Bank
Before the Cutoff: at St. John Vianney
Why They’re Here: The Caseys have two key losses outside of Class A Central, but in one of them (Red Bank), they played without senior center Quenton Nelson. Last week, Nelson flashed his worth by posting two 30-point games, so a loss without arguably the best player on the team makes that Red Bank game a possible throwaway. The Caseys have looked the part of a top 10 team, but there are some head-to-head results that may complicate their path to a higher seed.

11. Shore (17-6, 10-4)

Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Monmouth (2), Raritan (2), St. John Vianney (2), vs. Red Bank Catholic, vs. Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Losses: Manasquan (2), at Red Bank Catholic, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Wins: Freehold, Middletown North, Manasquan, vs. Ocean, at Mater Dei Prep, Willingboro, vs. Red Bank
Non-Division Losses: St. Joseph-Metuchen, Neptune
Why They’re Here: The Blue Devils won nine in a row before losing to Manasquan and have looked more like the team that was ranked No. 4 in the preseason. The win over Red Bank drops the Bucs more than it raises Shore because Red Bank Catholic finished ahead in the A Central standings and Jackson Memorial and Freehold Township need to come in before the Caseys based on the results.

12. Red Bank (14-7, 7-5)

Division Wins: Freehold (2), Wall (2), vs. Long Branch, vs. Neptune, vs. Ocean
Division Losses: Matawan (2), at Long Branch, at Neptune, at Ocean
Non-Division Wins: at St. John Vianney, vs. Freehold, vs. Monmouth, at Red Bank Catholic, vs. Jackson Liberty, at Rumson-Fair Haven, vs. Holmdel
Non-Division Losses: vs. Middletown North, at Shore
Why They’re Here: Losing by 23 at Shore on Saturday drops Red Bank from the top 10, but this is still a team that should be a lock for a home game after winning all of four games last year. The Bucs have been very tough on their home floor, so the reward should pay off.

13. Southern (12-7, 10-4)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Jackson Memorial (2), Toms River East (2), Toms River North (2), Toms River South (2)
Division Losses: Brick Memorial (2), Lacey (2)
Non-Division Wins: vs. Robbinsville, vs. Oakcrest
Non-Division Losses: vs. Jackson Liberty, vs. St. Augustine, Linden
Why They’re Here: If not for two wins over Jackson Memorial, Southern would plummet in the seeding, but those games happened and they reveal the potential of the Rams. Two wins each over tournament teams Jackson, Toms River South and Toms River North should get Southern some respect despite those other losses.

14. Point Boro (13-6, 10-4)

Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Central (2), Manchester (2), Pinelands (2), vs. Jackson Liberty, at Monsignor Donovan
Division Losses: Lakewood (2), at Jackson Liberty, vs. Monsignor Donovan
Non-Division Wins: St. Rose, at J.F. Kennedy-Iselin, Brick
Non-Division Losses: Jackson Memorial, Red Bank Catholic
Why They’re Here: A second win over Manchester, which Point Boro locked up Monday night, is a big one because Manchester has some quality out-of-division wins that would probably get Manchester into the top 10 if it were not for five division losses. Point Boro has one “bad” loss to Jackson Liberty, but that came when the Lions had James Sofield. The Lakewood loss on Thursday was house money, but the Panthers' hold on a home game is not all that strong based on so-so collection of out-of-division results.

15. Manchester (14-6, 8-5)

Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), at Central, vs. Monsignor Donovan
Division Losses: Lakewood (2), Point Boro (2), at Monsignor Donovan
Non-Division Wins: Toms River North, Toms River East, Toms River South, Jackson Memorial, at Brick, vs. Lacey
Non-Division Losses: vs. Camden
Why They’re Here: One win over Point Boro might have pushed Manchester into the top 10, but as is, the Hawks will not jump teams like Point Boro, Southern or Red Bank Catholic, but in the same breath, they have a better record than Freehold Township against common opponents and beat Jackson Memorial head-to-head.

16. Toms River South (13-7, 8-6)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Lacey (2), Toms River East (2), vs. Brick Memorial, vs. Toms River North
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), Southern (2), at Brick Memorial, at Toms River North
Non-Division Wins: Barnegat, Monsignor Donovan, Freehold Twp., Pleasantville, at Middletown South
Non-Division Losses: Manchester
Why They’re Here: The Indians would be higher, but considering their best player – Tymere Berry – will miss likely the entire SCT with a hip injury, they take a bit of a hit. Toms River South handily beat Freehold Township, but that was with Berry and it was the consolation round of a holiday tournament, which are easier games to dismiss. Although Brick Memorial finished ahead in the standings, Toms River South actually has the better record against common opponents, 9-5 to 8-6.

17. Monsignor Donovan (14-6, 10-4)

Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Central (2), Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), vs. Manchester, at Point Boro
Division Losses: Lakewood (2), at Manchester, vs. Point Boro
Non-Division Wins: Brick Memorial, at Toms River North, Newark Arts, at St. Rose
Non-Division Losses: Toms River South, Toms River East
Why They’re Here: The Griffins should be able to finish the week with a 10-4 division record, which will likely be tied with either Point Boro. The non-division resume is just okay, mostly because a loss to Toms River East offsets pretty good wins over Brick Memorial, Toms River North and St. Rose.

18. Brick Memorial (12-7, 9-5)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Southern (2), Toms River East (2), vs. Lacey, vs. Toms River North, vs. Toms River South
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), at Lacey, at Toms River North, at Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: Barnegat, Wall, vs. Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Losses: Monsignor Donovan, vs. Freehold Twp.
Why They’re Here: Two wins over Southern are the obvious draw to the Brick Memorial resume, but the fact that Lacey has also beaten Southern twice probably waters down the accomplishment a little bit. The losses to Monsignor Donovan and Freehold Township could cost the Mustangs a first-round home game, but beating Rumson this week might be enough to make that up considering Toms River South's issues.

19. St. Rose (16-5, 12-2)

Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keansburg (2), Keyport (2), Mater Dei Prep (2), Ranney (2)
Division Losses: Point Beach (2)
Non-Division Wins: at Holmdel, Brick, Central, vs. Bayonne
Non-Division Losses: Point Boro, vs. Monsignor Donovan, vs. Jackson Memorial
Why They’re Here: The Purple Roses beat Central two days after Lacey lost to the Golden Eagles, so that common opponent puts St. Rose above Lacey. An early-season win over Holmdel and a competitive loss to Jackson Memorial should help.

20. Toms River North (12-10, 8-6)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Lacey (2), Toms River East (2), vs. Brick Memorial, at Toms River South
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), Southern (2), at Brick Memorial, at Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: vs. Barnegat, vs. Freehold, vs. Henry Hudson, vs. Academy Charter
Non-Division Losses: vs. Manchester, vs. Wall, vs. Monsignor Donovan, Pemberton
Why They’re Here: Toms River North has four wins over teams in the field, which means the Mariners have two more of those than Holmdel does and three more than Rumson. The Bulldogs have the best win between the bunch teams (Shore), but since that was before Christmas, it's carrying a little less weight in this debate.

21. Holmdel (11-11, 8-6)

Division Wins: Raritan (2), Monmouth (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), St. John Vianney (2)
Division Losses: Manasquan (2), Red Bank Catholic (2), Shore (2)
Non-Division Wins: Cardinal McCarrick, at Manalapan, at Middletown South
Non-Division Losses: vs. St. Rose, Colonia, Union, vs. Matawan, at Red Bank
Why They’re Here: The Hornets rely heavily on the three-point shot, which explains their volatility from game to game. While Holmdel was one of the hottest-shooting teams for two-week stretch this season, the Hornets’ two wins over Rumson are the only wins over a team in the field.

22. Middletown North (11-8, 8-6)

Division Wins: Howell (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro (2), vs. Colts Neck, at Middletown South
Division Losses: CBA (2), Freehold Twp. (2), at Colts Neck, vs. Middletown South
Non-Division Wins: At Red Bank, Colts Neck, at Old Bridge
Non-Division Losses: Shore, vs. Point Beach
Why They’re Here: The Lions don’t have any wins that jump off the page and a loss to 4-16 Middletown South is going to hurt. Monsignor Donovan also has a bad loss (Toms River East), but that was in a Holiday consolation game and Donovan's resume is a little deeper. The win over Red Bank might give the Lions more of a case, but considering their best results came earlier in the season, they may have trouble getting a home game.

23. Colts Neck (10-7, 8-5)

Division Wins: Howell (2), Middletown South (2), vs. Freehold Twp., at Manalapan, vs. Marlboro, vs. Middletown North
Division Losses: CBA (2), at Freehold Twp., at Marlboro, at Middletown North
Non-Division Wins: Monmouth, vs. Ranney
Non-Division Losses: Manasquan, Middletown North
Why They’re Here: Outside of a 10-point win over Freehold Township, Colts Neck has had a pretty quiet year. Maybe they are too far away from No. 11 Freehold Township considering the two competitive games between the teams, but Colts Neck has played two games outside the division and the only win was a four-point nail-biter against 1-16 Monmouth. A loss to Middletown North in the Buc Classic consolation gives the Lions an edge in seeding despite the Cougars' better division record.

24. Lacey (8-9, 7-6)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Southern (2), Toms River East (2), vs. Brick Memorial
Division Losses: Toms River South (2), Toms River North (2), at Brick Memorial, at Jackson Memorial
Non-Division Wins: Brick
Non-Division Losses: Red Bank Catholic, Central, at Manchester
Why They’re Here: While the resume looks good with two wins over Southern, one of those with without Mike Gesicki. Other than that win against Gesicki and the Rams and a win over Brick Memorial, there is no win over a team outside of Class A South and there is also a shaky loss to Central early in the season when the Golden Eagles were still struggling. With the tournament now open to teams one game under .500, Lacey is at least in the field.

25. Rumson-Fair Haven (11-9, 6-7)

Division Wins: Raritan (2), St. John Vianney (2), at Monmouth, vs. Shore
Division Losses: Holmdel (2), Manasquan (2), Red Bank Catholic (2), at Shore
Non-Division Wins: Visions Academy, vs. Academy Charter, vs. Ocean, at Middletown South, vs. Bard
Non-Division Losses: vs. Red Bank, at Brick Memorial
Why They’re Here: The Bulldogs looked like a potential surprise team after an opening-night win over Shore, but since then, they have not defeated a Shore Conference team with a winning record. Rumson will be a dangerous team in the tournament if it can get its act together, but there’s not enough proof that the Bulldogs have earned a spot any higher than 24 or 25.

26. Marlboro (10-9, 6-7)

Division Wins: Manalapan (2), Middletown South (2), vs. Colts Neck, at Howell
Division Losses: CBA (2), Freehold Twp. (2), Middletown North (2), at Colts Neck
Non-Division Wins: Dickinson, at Monmouth, vs. Freehold, vs. Ocean
Non-Division Losses: vs. Fair Lawn, at Cranford
Why They’re Here: The Mustangs clinched a spot with a late win over Middletown South, but outside of a win over Colts Neck, Marlboro hasn’t beaten a tournament team. The Mustangs could still be a sleeper as a team in the mid-20s and deserve plenty of credit for turning things around this season.

27. Keyport (11-6, 9-5)

Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Mater Dei Prep (2), Ranney (2), vs. Keansburg
Division Losses: Point Beach (2), St. Rose (2), at Keansburg
Non-Division Wins: A.L. Johnson, vs. METS Charter
Non-Division Losses: Bernards
Why They’re Here: The Red Raiders have not stepped outside the division much and so far, the two wins over Mater Dei stand as the lone wins over teams currently in the tournament. While those two Mater Dei wins should keep Keyport out of the last spot, a loss to Keansburg might get the Red Raiders a vote or two for No. 28.

28. Mater Dei Prep (9-9, 8-6)

Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keansburg (2), Ranney (2)
Division Losses: Keyport (2), Point Beach (2), St. Rose (2)
Non-Division Wins: J.F. Kennedy-Iselin
Non-Division Losses: Bishop Ahr, at Shore, at Wall
Why They’re Here: The good news for the Seraphs is that they are in the tournament. The bad news is that with no wins against the field, they will most likely fill in the last spot.