Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Jan. 2
The first Top 10 of 2018 does not have much of anything new on the surface, but a potential sweeping change is bubbling below the surface. No. 1 and No. 3 have shown some vulnerability while No. 2 continues a hot start. Nos. 4 and 5 have battled against challenging early-season opponents, while Nos. 6 and 7 have been dominant during unbeaten starts. Nos. 9 and 10 already have two losses apiece, but have been able to ward off challenges from the unranked.
It may not look like much to report this week on Top 10 movement, but heading into the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase, there will be a lot of potential for a top-10 overhaul next week.
1. Ranney (5-2, 2-0) Last Week: 1
After winning the City of Palms consolation bracket on Dec. 23, Ranney was lined up to be the Shore’s No. 1 team by a wide margin heading into the New Year. Monday’s loss to Montclair Immaculate changes that. Even though the Panthers don’t drop in the rankings this week, they are now on the fence and could potentially fall to No. 2 with another loss coupled with Mater Dei continuing its winning ways. For now, however, Ranney has played the tougher schedule and wins over Orlando Christian and Mountain Brook (Ala.) are plenty good enough for them to remain No. 1.
2. Mater Dei Prep (5-0, 2-0) Last Week: 2
Mater Dei has been through two high-profile tests so far and passed both. The Seraphs beat St. Mary’s Elizabeth in controversial fashion on the first weekend of the season and on Monday, they held off Teaneck after the defending Group III champions cut a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to one in just four minutes. Getting to No. 1 by next week’s rankings is a possibility for Mater Dei, but the best chance for the Seraphs to make the jump will be a head-to-head meeting at Ranney on Jan. 11.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (3-1, 2-0) Last Week: 3
A competitive loss to St. Peter’s Prep is not a damning loss, but the Bulldogs are still not quite at peak performance yet. They have not been able to get all of their guards going at the same time yet and they have routinely gotten off the slow offensive starts in the first half of games. Ultimately, however, Rumson has not done anything to deserve being dropped to this point and will have a chance to prove itself as the No. 3 team this Saturday against CBA at the Boardwalk Showcase.
4. Neptune (5-1, 3-0) Last Week: 4
Neptune showed some heart this week by rallying from a 19-point deficit to pull within one score of a talented Seton Hall Prep team before ultimately falling. The Scarlet Fliers have not blown teams away, but they have beaten some quality opponents with a strong defense while also showing they are comfortable playing in tight games.
5. Christian Brothers Academy (3-2, 2-0) Last Week: 5
CBA split their two holiday-break games, beating Xaverian of Brooklyn and dropping a game at St. Anthony of Long Island. Both are quality opponents, so the Colts are not going to move one way or the other off those results, but they remain in position to climb by the end of the week with a game against Rumson Saturday at Brookdale.
6. Colt Neck (6-0, 3-0) Last Week: 6
It’s hard to argue that any team was more dominant over the break than Colts Neck was in winning the Buc Classic. The Cougars won three games by an average margin of 33 points, capped by an 80-53 win over Sayreville. The Cougars get their biggest test this week against Toms River North and next week’s slate includes a visit to CBA and a trip to Neptune – both of which will have major implications on the A North race and the top 10.
7. Manasquan (7-0, 3-0) Last Week: 7
On strength of schedule, Manasquan is probably a top-five team (ahead of Rumson and Colts Neck). This set of rankings is playing it conservative without a lot of head-to-head results year, so the Warriors remain in the seven spot for now, but could certainly climb soon if they keep winning since Rumson, CBA, Neptune and Colts Neck will be playing one another over the next two weeks.
8. Toms River North (6-1, 3-0) Last Week: 9
The only change in this week’s Top 10 is Toms River North jumping one spot ahead of Poitn Beach. The Mariners showed some fortitude in rallying from a double-digit deficit to beat Marlboro in the WOBM Classic semifinals and nearly did the same before falling to Manasquan in the championship game. With the depth and size Toms River North has, it is going to be difficult for the rest of A South to keep up with the three-time defending divisional champs and a 35-game A South winning streak could continue to grow.
9. Point Pleasant Beach (3-2, 2-1) Last Week: 8
The first month of the season for Point Beach is all about scrapping for wins while transfer Mohamed Traore sits out and to this point, the Garnet Gulls have done a fine job of that. So far, the only two losses they have suffered are to Ranney and St. Joseph of Hammonton and Point Beach responded to both of those losses by beating St. Rose and Irvington. A home game vs. St. John Vianney and a date with Middletown North at the Boardwalk Showcase on Saturday is another chance for Point Beach to solidify a Top 10 spot for the time being while the Garnet Gulls continue to wait for the roster to become whole.
10. Matawan (4-2, 2-1) Last Week: 10
Although Matawan lost to Union in the Husky Classic final, every other prospective Top 10 team also lost this week as well. The Huskies play Middletown North and Raritan this week, which will give them a chance to prove they still belong in the top 10, although at No. 10, they could still wind up the odd team out if an unranked team steps up with a big win.
On the Bubble
Red Bank Catholic (5-2, 2-1) – A second loss to Manasquan in which the Caseys scored only 29 points keeps RBC out, but a win over Marlboro has them positioned to jump in if they can get on a roll in a tough B North.
Point Pleasant Boro (5-1, 3-0) – The Panthers look poised to win a B South title in the early going and a win over Middletown South on a neutral floor is a solid non-divisional victory to add to the resume.
Marlboro (3-4, 1-2) – Marlboro has lost competitive games to three top-10 teams – No. 4 Neptune, No. 6 Colts Neck and No. 8 Toms River North – and Red Bank Catholic, so the sub-.500 record is deceiving, particularly for a team with a lot of youth.
Middletown North (4-2, 2-1) – A loss to a fast-improving 1-5 Freehold Boro team eliminated any chance of the Lions getting back in this week, but over the next five days, they can get back in the picture with a good performance against a tough schedule that includes road games at Matawan and Long Branch and a neutral site game vs. Point Beach.
St. Rose (4-2, 2-1) – Both losses by the Purple Roses came against top-10 teams Point Beach and Toms River North and they rolled to wins over Donovan Catholic and Brick Memorial at the WOBM around the loss to the top-seeded Mariners.
Ocean (2-4, 1-2) – Although only 2-4, Ocean’s losses are to Manasquan, Middletown North, Matawan and Old Bridge – all by single-digits. They also have wins over Long Branch and Carteret, so strength of schedule alone keeps Ocean among the teams to track.