Boys Basketball – NJSIAA Preview: Non-Public
The NJSIAA Tournament of Champions began in 1989 and in the 28 years of the T of C, only four public schools - Elizabeth in 1990, Shawnee in 1992, Orange in 1994 and Camden in 2000 - have been crowned the No. 1 team in New Jersey. Playing those percentages, it's fair to assume that the Tournament of Champions winner is coming from either Non-Public A or Non-Public B.
The South Jersey side of the two non-public brackets have been boosted in recent years by the shift of traditional North Jersey powers to the South Non-Public B bracket. With the realignment and the emergence of local programs like Mater Dei Prep and Ranney, that bracket, in particular, is home to some serious talent. Non-Public A also has some contenders on the South Side, which includes a defending group champion and T of C semifinalist.
South Jersey Non-Public A
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 6 CBA, No. 8 Red Bank Catholic, No. 11 Donovan Catholic, No. 13 St. John Vianney
Defending Champion: No. 1 St. Augustine
Top Seed: St. Augustine
The Favorite: St. Augustine. Although the Hermits graduated Sa’eed Nelson from its Tournament of Champions semifinal team, they still retain a balanced, talented roster that will stack up against any other Non-Public A team. In the South Jersey side of the bracket, St. Augustine is head-and-shoulders above the field and it will take an A-effort for any of the other teams to beat them.
The Dark Horse: No. 7 Union Catholic. Of all the teams in the field, Union Catholic is the one that looks best-equipped to knock off St. Augustine. The Vikings have faced the top two teams in the state – Patrick School and Linden – and lost to No. 1 Patrick’s by only four points. They also played a competitive game against No. 5 St. Mary’s of Elizabeth in the Union County Tournament and have noteworthy wins over Seton Hall Prep, Ewing, Nottingham and the Hun School.
Round by Round Picks
(8) Red Bank Catholic over (9) Paul VI
(5) Camden Catholic over (12) Pingry
(4) Notre Dame over (13) St. John Vianney
(6) CBA over (11) Donovan Catholic
(7) Union Catholic over (10) Bishop Ahr
(1) St. Augustine over (8) Red Bank Catholic
(5) Camden Catholic over (4) Notre Dame
(6) CBA over (3) Bishop Eustace
(7) Union Catholic over (2) St. Joseph Metuchen
(1) St. Augustine over (5) Camden Catholic
(7) Union Catholic over (6) CBA
(1) St. Augustine over (7) Union Catholic
CBA got a late bump to the No. 6 seed after initially drawing No. 7 and that move up one spot gives the Colts a great opportunity to push into the sectional semifinals during what might have seemed like a rebuilding year at several points of the season. Potential quarterfinal opponent Bishop Eustace enters the tournament on a four-game losing streak, although three of those losses were to Shawnee and Lenape – the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in South Jersey Group IV – as well as St. Anthony. The Crusaders have a pair of wins over Camden to highlight their season so far.
The draws are much tougher for Red Bank Catholic, Donovan Catholic and St. John Vianney. RBC at least gets a home game, albeit a difficult one against a solid Paul VI unit. Donovan Catholic already has a Shore Conference Tournament loss to CBA and Vianney will have to take on formidable, fourth-seeded Notre Dame. On top of the first-round matchup, all three of those teams are on the same side of the bracket as St. Augustine. CBA has proven to be the best of the four Shore teams in this group and the Colts have the clearest path to the final to boot.
South Jersey Non-Public B
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 4 Ranney, No. 8 Mater Dei Prep, No. 14 St. Rose
Defending Champion: No. 6 Roselle Catholic
Top Seed: Patrick School
The Favorite: Patrick School. With six Division I seniors and a front line that includes players at 6-10, 6-11 and 7-0, the Patrick School is the overwhelming favorite in this bracket and the favorite to win the Tournament of Champions as well. The Celtics have played five games against three teams in this bracket and are 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 12 points.
The Dark Horse: Mater Dei. It’s hard to call a team as talented as Roselle Catholic the “dark horse” despite the Celtics only being a No. 6 seed. There are also other teams worse off than Mater Dei in seeding that can make some noise – like Rutgers Prep or Wildwood Catholic. The Seraphs, however, are playing their best basketball of the season right now and getting humbled against Patrick School earlier in the year might help give them an edge while possibly lulling the top-seeded Celtics to sleep.
Round by Round Picks
(1) Patrick School over (16) St. Joseph Hammonton
(8) Mater Dei over (9) Gloucester Catholic
(12) Rutgers Prep over (5) Trenton Catholic
(4) Ranney over (13) Timothy Christian
(3) St. Mary, Elizabeth over (14) St. Rose
(6) Roselle Catholic over (11) Holy Spirit
(10) Wildwood Catholic over (7) Doane Academy
(2) Gill St. Bernard’s over (15) Immaculata
(1) Patrick School over (8) Mater Dei
(4) Ranney over (12) Rutgers Prep
(6) Roselle Catholic over (3) St. Mary, Elizabeth
(2) Gill St. Bernard’s over (10) Wildwood Catholic
(1) Patrick School over (4) Ranney
(6) Roselle Catholic over (2) Gill St. Bernard’s
(1) Patrick School over (6) Roselle Catholic
South Jersey Non-Public B is the most loaded bracket in the state by a comfortable margin and despite that, it would take a sizable upset to prevent a fourth meeting between Patrick School and Roselle Catholic for the sectional title. Both Ranney and Mater Dei have the talent to take down Roselle Catholic with a strong showing, but the Patrick School is a different story. Both teams will have a great chance to get to a game against the top-seeded Celtics, but the run will be in serious jeopardy on the road against the No. 1 team in the state.
St. Rose, meanwhile, falls victim to the arms race of teams in Non-Public B and a head-scratching configuration that classifies teams from Elizabeth, Roselle and Northern Somerset County as “South Jersey” teams. The Purple Roses have a solid team on their hands, but will have travel up to Elizabeth to play a St. Mary’s team ranked among the top five in the state in the first round. Between that challenge and Mater Dei and Ranney having to deal with the Patrick School, it’s probably not the Shore’s year in this bracket quite yet.