Boys Basketball – 2019 SCT Watch
For the first six weeks of the 2018-19 Shore Conference basketball season, we have been trying to figure out what this year’s Shore Conference Tournament field is going to look like beyond Ranney at No. 1.
After about four weeks, it was complete chaos. Nos. 2 through 7 were virtually interchangeable and a few teams outside of that tier even had a legitimate case to be heard.
Three weeks later, the chaos has cooled off but not totally disappeared. It looks like there will be a clear No. 2 and No. 3, with some room to debate which should be which. Sorting through spots 4 through 11 will be a challenge, but one that is a little more conventional.
As always, there are many ways to view the field and to evaluate a given résumé when it comes to the SCT. The general framework is to evaluate each team’s overall body of work, then get down into the weeds to determine what head-to-head results and common opponents separate one team from another or from a particular group of teams. With so much parity this season, head-to-head results might not mean as much and consistency could carry the day, especially given the recent struggles of a few noteworthy teams.
With Saturday's games in the books, there are 24 teams officially qualified for the SCT, which means the top eight seeds will get a bye to Thursday's round of 16. Here is how the field shapes up heading into Sunday morning's seeding meeting - which is sure to feature some, shall we say, "lively" debate.
At (opponent) = road result/game
Vs. (opponent) = neutral site result/game
(opponent) = home result/game
1. Ranney (20-3, 12-0)
Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keansburg (2), Keyport (2), Mater Dei (2), Point Beach (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: West Nottingham (Md.), vs. Don Bosco, vs. Garner Magnet (N.C.), West Charlotte (N.C.), South Central (N.C.), vs. Bergen Catholic, vs. Federal Way (Wa.), vs. Roselle Catholic
Non-Division Losses: Vs. MacDuffie (Mass.), vs. Gill St. Bernard, vs. Montverde (Fla.)
Why They’re Here: Ranney hasn’t played a Shore Conference opponent outside of its division but that’s because the Panthers have played a national schedule. No other team in the Shore Conference is nationally ranked or has a McDonald’s All-American – let alone two – so I think we’ll forgive them for not testing themselves at a more local level. It makes for slightly more intrigue that no ranked Shore team has taken an in-season crack at Ranney and it could be interesting to see how close its eventual SCT opponents can get.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (17-4, 12-1)
Division Wins: Howell (2), Long Branch (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro (2), Middletown South (2), Freehold Boro, at Freehold Twp.
Division Losses: Freehold Twp.
Non-Division Wins: Vs. McArthur (Fla.), vs. Taylor Allderdice (Pa.), vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), Mater Dei, Red Bank Catholic
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Gill St. Bernard, vs. Hun, at Elizabeth
Why They’re Here: The Colts beat Middletown South twice, avenged an earlier loss to Freehold Township and hammered Red Bank Catholic last Saturday to put themselves in position to lock up the No. 2 seed this week. A win over Elizabeth would have done the trick, but a loss at the buzzer to the unbeaten Minutemen at least keeps the door open for Manasquan. CBA’s lone Shore Conference loss is that home defeat at the hands of Freehold Township and outside the conference, CBA gave Gill St. Bernard – the only team in N.J. to beat Ranney this season – a competitive game as well. CBA missed a chance to leave no doubt but the Colts still have the edge for No. 2, if only a slight one.
3. Manasquan (22-2, 13-1)
Division Wins: Holmdel (2), Monmouth (2), Raritan (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2), Red Bank Catholic
Division Losses: At Red Bank Catholic
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Union Catholic, vs. Toms River South, vs. Toms River East, vs. Middletown South, vs. Neptune, vs. Brick, vs. Old Bridge, vs. Jackson Liberty, at Wall
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Marlboro
Why They’re Here: In the big picture, Manasquan has a résumé that could earn the No. 2 seed but its two losses – Marlboro and Red Bank Catholic – are teams CBA defeated by double-figure margins. With that being said, the Warriors have established themselves as a clear top-three team and a payback win over RBC on Tuesday at least puts them in the conversation for No. 2. With CBA losing to Elizabeth, Manasquan has a decent case to be the No. 2 thanks to a strong division and a win over Union Catholic, but CBA's edge in record vs. common opponents (5-0 vs. 2-2) still gives the Colts the upper hand.
4. Freehold Township (17-3, 12-2)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Howell (2), Long Branch (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro (2), at CBA, Middletown South
Division Losses: At Middletown South, CBA
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Brick Memorial, at Toms River North, at Holmdel, Middletown North, Colts Neck
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Red Bank Catholic
Why They’re Here: With two big wins this week, Freehold Township climbs into the top four. The Patriots have the quality win over CBA and unlike Rumson, Red Bank Catholic and Middletown South, Freehold Township does not have a loss to a team that is going to be seeded outside the Top 10. Rumson had the edge over Freehold Township for most of the season, but with Rumson's losses to Holmdel and Red Bank on top of Freehold Township's win over Middletown South, both teams are now 5-2 vs. common opponents. With that in mind, Freehold Township's win at CBA should be the tie-breaker.
5. Toms River North (18-3, 14-0)
Division Wins: Brick (2), Brick Memorial (2), Central (2), Jackson Memorial (2), Southern (2), Toms River East (2), Toms River South (2)
Division Losses: None
Non-Division Wins: Manchester, vs. Cherokee, Bishop Ahr, at Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Losses: Vs. St. Augustine, Middletown South, Freehold Twp.
Why They’re Here: With 15 straight wins, Toms River North is the hottest team in the Shore Conference and has not lost since the calendar turned to 2019. In the last month, the Mariners have gotten healthy, developed some experience for a junior-heavy roster and have picked up strong out-of-conference wins over Cherokee and Bishop Ahr. Class A South and Ocean County on the whole have not been particularly impressive as compared to the Monmouth County schools and divisions and while that is a common refrain, the gap is more exaggerated this season. Still, Toms River North has proven to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the county and has earned the respect to be considered a contender for a top-five seed based on its 18-3 mark. Recent slides by Middletown South, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson have given Toms River North an opening to push into the top five as the more consistent team, despite Middletown South beating the Mariners handily in December.
6. Rumson-Fair Haven (16-5, 11-3)
Division Wins: Monmouth (2), Raritan (2), Red Bank Catholic (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2), Holmdel
Division Losses: Manasquan (2), at Holmdel
Non-Division Wins: Fort Hamilton (N.Y.), St. Peter’s Prep, vs. Middletown North, Marlboro, People’s Prep
Non-Division Losses: Middletown South, at Red Bank
Why They’re Here: The Jackson McCarthy ankle injury was an acceptable explanation for some of Rumson's struggles but McCarthy played in Saturday's surprising loss at Red Bank. Looking at teams 6 through 12, there is going to be a discussion about body of work vs. recent play and if the committee keeps an eye on the big picture, Rumson can stay away from the No. 8 seed. The Bulldogs still have two wins over Red Bank Catholic, one over Marlboro when each team was missing a key player, and one more over St. Peter's Prep - a collection of wins that should keep Rumson in a decent position to make a run.
7. Red Bank Catholic (16-6, 9-5)
Division Wins: Monmouth (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2), Holmdel, Manasquan, Raritan
Division Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven (2), at Manasquan, at Raritan
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Point Boro, vs. Freehold Twp., vs. Middletown South, vs. Marlboro, Red Bank, vs. Middletown South, at St. John Vianney
Non-Division Losses: At CBA
Why They’re Here: RBC's spiral has been staggering considering how good the Caseys looked during a 14-1 start to the season. Since then, they lost the second meeting with Rumson to concede a season sweep, got upset on the road by Raritan, were beat handily by CBA and Manasquan on the road, then got clocked at Holmdel on Thursday. The early-season success still counts for something, but a 2-5 record over their last seven cost the Caseys a top-five seed and maybe more. Two wins over Middletown South and one over Marlboro (on a controversial buzzer-beater) are the only results saving them from slipping out of the top seven.
8. Marlboro (13-10, 7-7)
Division Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Manalapan (2), at Howell, Long Branch, at Middletown South
Division Losses: CBA (2), Freehold Twp. (2), Howell, at Long Branch, Middletown South
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Jackson Memorial, vs. Central, vs. Manasquan, at Point Beach, at Mater Dei, at Neptune
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Red Bank Catholic, at Bishop Ahr, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Why They’re Here: Marlboro’s résumé resembles Middletown South’s in that the Mustangs have some quality wins and some shaky losses. What sets Marlboro apart is the Mustangs can directly link at least five of their losses to an injury to top scorer Alex Ratner. He injured his ankle in the first half of the loss to Middletown South and the team proceeded to lose six straight, including a loss to 6-17 Howell in which all-time Marlboro scoring leader Dylan Kaufman did not play either. Ratner returned on Thursday of last past week and the Mustangs immediately beat Middletown South and Neptune on the road – a sign that they are a team to be feared again.
9. Middletown South (13-10, 7-7)
Division Wins: Howell (2), Freehold Boro, Freehold Twp., Long Branch, Manalapan, at Marlboro
Division Losses: CBA (2), at Freehold Boro, at Freehold Twp., at Long Branch, at Manalapan, Marlboro
Non-Division Wins: Vs. St. Rose, at Toms River North, at Matawan, at Rumson-Fair Haven, Mater Dei, Middletown North
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Red Bank Catholic, vs. Manasquan, vs. Red Bank Catholic
Why They’re Here: The Eagles have played a whopping 11 games and gone 4-7 against seven teams ranked in the top 10, but they have also lost to three teams that won't be in the field. In light of Middletown South's recent struggles, head-to-head wins over Toms River North, Rumson and Freehold Township are serving to keep them in the top 10 more than vault them into the top six. On the other hand, Rumson and RBC are now struggling as much, if not more, than Middletown South so maybe those wins serve to push Middletown South up the list along with Marlboro.
10. Wall (15-6, 12-2)
Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Matawan (2), Middletown North (2), Red Bank (2), St. John Vianney (2), at Neptune, Ocean
Division Losses: Neptune, at Ocean, Manasquan
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Middle Twp., vs. Jackson Liberty, Howell
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Lenape, vs. Mainland, at Jackson Memorial
Why They’re Here: After a bit of a funk last week, Wall appears to have righted the ship with a pair of B North wins and a solid showing in a loss to Manasquan. With its win play this week, Wall more-or-less guaranteed a top-10 spot by winning its second B North championship in five years and with RBC and Rumson limping into the tournament, the Crimson Knights could have a case to be in the conversation for No. 6.
11. Neptune (15-6, 10-4)
Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Ocean (2), Red Bank (2), Matawan, Middletown North, St. John Vianney, at Wall
Division Losses: At Matawan, Middletown North, at St. John Vianney, Wall
Non-Division Wins: Columbia, Union City, Payne Tech, Lakewood, Long Branch
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Manasquan, Marlboro
Why They’re Here: A loss to Marlboro is going to keep Neptune from the top nine, but the Scarlet Fliers are trending in the right direction while a handful of teams - RBC, Rumson and Middletown South - have struggled over the last two weeks of the regular season. On overall body of work, Neptune is a step or two behind those teams but is also playing a lot better right now. It's hard to make a case for Neptune jumping Wall, but the Fliers did win the more recent meeting and had to overcome losing Sam Fagan for the season in early January, which they seem to have successfully done.
12. Holmdel (11-9, 8-6)
Division Wins: Raritan (2), St. Rose (2), Shore (2), Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Losses: Manasquan (2), Monmouth (2), at Red Bank Catholic, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Manalapan, Matawan, Manalapan
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Old Bridge, vs. Union, Freehold Twp.
Why They’re Here: After taking a painful second loss of the season to Monmouth, Holmdel responded by routing scuffling Red Ban Catholic on Thursday to lock up a spot in the tournament. That win gives Holmdel wins over two teams (Rumson and RBC) that were in the top-five heading into the week and should both still be in the top 10 at the very least.
13. St. John Vianney (11-11, 6-8)
Division Wins: Matawan (2), Red Bank (2), Neptune, Ocean
Division Losses: Colts Neck (2), Middletown North (2), Wall (2), at Ocean
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Colts Neck, vs. Middletown North, Monmouth, at Central, Sinai Christian
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Notre Dame, at St. Rose, Red Bank Catholic
Why They're Here: St. John Vianney has a number of losses to teams not in the field (Middletown North twice, Ocean and possibly Colts Neck twice and St. Rose once) but the Lancers also have two wins over Matawan, one win over Neptune and beat both Colts Neck and Middletown North at the Buc Classic. Colts Neck, Ocean, Middletown North, Monmouth Regional, Red Bank and Central Regional all fell short of the field but all are decent teams and Vianney has at least one win over all of them. Throw in the success vs. Neptune and Matawan and the Lancers should be looking at a home game.
14. Matawan (12-9, 7-7)
Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Middletown North (2), Neptune, at Ocean, at Red Bank
Division Losses: St. John Vianney (2), Wall, at Neptune, Ocean, Red Bank
Non-Division Wins: North Brunswick, Freehold Boro, Union, Old Bridge, vs. Newark Arts
Non-Division Losses: Middletown South, at Holmdel
Why They’re Here: After a hot start to the season, Matawan has gone from cooling off to struggling. The Huskies are 3-7 in their last 10 games after starting 9-2. They still have five long, athletic starters who can all score and defend, but there have been enough hiccups (two losses to St. John Vianney, recent home losses to Ocean and Red Bank, a blowout loss at Holmdel) to give the seeding committee some pause regarding Matawan. The win over Old Bridge is a good one and the opening-night win over Neptune still carries enough weight to get Matawan a home game.
15. Brick (12-8, 9-5)
Division Wins: Jackson Memorial (2), Southern (2), Toms River East (2), Toms River South (2), Brick Memorial
Division Losses: Central (2), Toms River North (2), at Brick Memorial
Non-Division Wins: Princeton Day, at Lakewood, at Lacey
Non-Division Losses: At Monroe, vs. Manasquan, vs. Lincoln
Why They’re Here: Coupled with a win over Southern on Thursday, a win over Brick Memorial on Tuesday might have secured Brick a home game. Two wins over Jackson Memorial should guarantee Brick a spot over the Jaguars in the seeding but two losses to Central could be a threat to Brick's seeding if the Golden Eagles can get in. Ultimately, second place in the A South standings should get them the nod over any other team from the division, even in the likely event of a second-place tie with Brick Memorial.
16. Jackson Memorial (12-9, 7-7)
Division Wins: Toms River East (2), Toms River South (2), Brick Memorial, Central, at Southern
Division Losses: Brick (2), Toms River North (2), at Brick Memorial, at Central, Southern
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Toms River South, Jackson Liberty, at Barnegat, Wall, at Howell
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Marlboro, vs. Donovan Catholic
Why They’re Here: Two losses to Brick and one to Southern hold up an otherwise intriguing résumé for Jackson Memorial. The Jaguars have six wins over teams currently in the tournament, including one over a Wall team currently projected for the No. 10 seed. For the moment, all that adds up to a home game for the Jaguars, who have played especially well in their own gym.
17. Jackson Liberty (11-8, 11-3)
Division Wins: Donovan Catholic (2), Lacey (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Barnegat, Point Boro, Pinelands
Division Losses: At Point Boro, at Barnegat, at Pinelands
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: At Southern, vs. Howell, vs. Wall, at Jackson Memorial, vs. Manasquan
Why They’re Here: The Lions have the best scorer in the field in Daniel Sofield (28.9 points per game) and are the outright B South champions, which could get them a home game. On the flip side, they are 0-5 in games outside of Class B South and two of those losses are to Southern and Howell – teams well out of the SCT field. On top of that, Jackson Liberty was not at all competitive in its game against Manasquan, albeit with starter Takai Anderson sitting out. A home game is on the table and with Sofield on its side, Jackson Liberty could find itself with a good chance to win in the first round.
18. Pinelands (15-5, 10-4)
Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Donovan Catholic (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Jackson Liberty, Lacey
Division Losses: Point Boro (2), at Jackson Liberty, at Lacey
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Raritan, vs. Steinert, at Brick Memorial, Keyport, Shore
Non-Division Losses: At Ocean
Why They’re Here: Pinelands squandered a chance to win the outright B South title by losing to Lacey and that could cost the Wildcats a home game. Pinelands doesn’t have any eye-catching wins of its own, but a win over a Raritan team that knocked off Red Bank Catholic is worth noting. Two losses to Point Boro, as well as a loss at Ocean, will hinder Pinelands as well in its attempt to get that home game.
19. Brick Memorial (12-9, 9-5)
Division Wins: Central (2), Southern (2), Toms River South (2), Brick, Jackson Memorial, Toms River East
Division Losses: Toms River North (2), at Brick, at Jackson Memorial, at Toms River East
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Point Boro, at Freehold Boro, Ocean
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Freehold Twp., vs. St. Rose, Pinelands, at Point Boro
Why They’re Here: Brick Memorial climbed to the cusp of the top 10 a couple of weeks ago but has hit a rough patch recently. Losses to Jackson Memorial, Toms River East, Pinelands, Point Boro and Brick have stalled the Mustangs’ climb and win in a regular-season finale against Toms River South won't change perception of Brick Memorial.
20. Toms River East (11-9, 6-8)
Division Wins: Central (2), Toms River South (2), Brick Memorial, Southern
Division Losses: Brick (2), Jackson Memorial (2), Toms River North (2), at Brick Memorial, at Southern
Non-Division Wins: At Mater Dei, vs. Lacey, vs. Central, vs. Cumberland, at Freehold Boro
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Manasquan
Why They’re Here: Toms River East has done the requisite work outside the division this year with a 5-1 mark, but its struggles against its fellow A South brethren might hold the Raiders back. They have already lost twice to both Brick and Jackson Memorial and also have a loss to Southern. On the plus side, the Raiders picked up a huge home win over Brick Memorial, beat Central three times and head into the tournament on a four-game surge.
21. Donovan Catholic (11-9, 9-5)
Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Point Boro, at Lacey
Division Losses: Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), Lacey
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Jackson Memorial, vs. Howell
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Central, vs. Lacey, at Central, Toms River North
Why They’re Here: While there is nothing to love about the Donovan Catholic résumé, there is nothing much to complain about either. All of Donovan Catholic’s losses to date have come against teams that are currently lined up to make the tournament and the Griffins also have wins over Jackson Memorial and Lacey. The loss to Jackson Liberty Tuesday was a missed opportunity to climb and a win over Point Boro (9-12) to close out the regular season won't give the Griffins much of a jolt. On the bright side, they jumped Lacey after the Lions lost to Lakewood on Friday.
22. Lacey (12-9, 7-7)
Division Wins: Point Boro (2), at Barnegat, at Donovan Catholic, Lakewood, Manchester, Pinelands
Division Losses: Jackson Liberty (2), Barnegat, Donovan Catholic, at Lakewood, at Manchester, at Pinelands
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Toms River South, vs. Donovan Catholic, Central, at Toms River South, at Southern
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Toms River East, Brick
Why They’re Here: The Lions are guaranteed a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time since 2013-14 and have enough firepower and experience to do some damage once the tournament starts. A win over Pinelands gave Lacey a case to jump Donovan Catholic but a loss at Lakewood on Friday should ultimately keep the Lions a spot behind the Griffins on account of a two-game difference in the division.
23. Mater Dei Prep (12-8, 10-2)
Division Wins: Asbury Park (2), Henry Hudson (2), Keansburg (2), Keyport (2), Point Beach (2)
Division Losses: Ranney (2)
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Atlantic Tech, vs. Middle Twp.
Non-Division Losses: Toms River East, vs. Howell, at CBA, Notre Dame, Marlboro, at Middletown South
Why They’re Here: Considering everything they lost from a year ago, the Seraphs have done a great job under first-year coach Dennis Kazimir. They went a perfect 10-0 in their non-Ranney games in B Central and although their only two non-divisional wins came in December, the Seraphs have shown they can be competitive against Notre Dame and Marlboro. Although B Central was especially weak this season, Mater Dei challenged itself outside the division and that might be the basis for a case to jump up an extra spot.
24. Asbury Park (12-11, 8-4)
Division Wins: Henry Hudson (2), Keansburg (2), Keyport (2), Point Beach (2)
Division Losses: Mater Dei (2), Ranney (2)
Non-Division Wins: At Shore, South River, vs. Bridgewater-Raritan
Non-Division Losses: Vs. Mainland, vs. Middle Twp., vs. Atlantic Tech, at Lakewood, at St. Mary’s Elizabeth, at Atlantic City, at Trenton
Why They’re Here: Asbury Park is back in the Shore Conference Tournament for a second straight year and with a good regular-season schedule in its rearview mirror. The Blue Bishops have challenged themselves outside of B Central (and inside it with two games against Ranney and two competitive matchups with Mater Dei) and picked up wins over Shore, South River and Bridgewater-Raritan along the way. A loss to Lakewood and two to Mater Dei probably relegates Asbury Park to the last seed but they will be a headache for whichever team has to play the Blue Bishops in the first round.
Colts Neck (9-11, 6-8)
St. Rose (9-12, 3-10)
Central (10-12, 6-8)
Ocean (10-12, 5-9)
Barnegat (10-12, 7-7)