Boys Basketball – SCT Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions
Before reading the picks this week, check out the video above for a breakdown of each of the four games on Sunday with Kevin Williams and me. The Ranney-Toms River North discussion starts at 2:52 on the video, CBA-Neptune at 5:06, Mater Dei-Manasquan at 7:30 and Rumson-Point Beach at 10:38.
I got back on track by going 8-0 in the round-of-16 after a poor showing in the first round and the readers were not far off. You guys went 7-1 and as a whole, went with Colts Neck over Point Beach by less than a one percent margin. So far, the wisdom of the crowds has been on full display.
There will be a lot of safe picks the rest of the way, but at least one of the games on Sunday should be considered a tossup. On to the picks.
(1) Ranney vs. (8) Toms River North, 11 a.m.
The Panthers are back to full strength and flexed their muscles in a 33-point win over a streaking Barnegat team on Thursday night. Now, they turn their attention to a Toms River North team that has been to three straight SCT semifinals and will be playing on its home floor. If the Mariners can find a way to make their depth a factor and, of course, execute on the offensive end, they might be able to make it interesting. They have some big bodies to throw into the paint and make the game physical. It might be difficult, but it probably won’t be anything Ranney’s star-studded lineup hasn’t seen before. The Pick: Ranney, 67-52
(4) Neptune vs. (5) Christian Brothers Academy, 12:45 p.m.
This will be the rubber match between the two longtime Shore Conference rivals, with Neptune looking like the favorite based on a one-point loss at CBA and a 17-point win over the Colts at home. CBA is more well-rounded offensive team, but Neptune has the most defensive-oriented team in the conference – and one that is playing well right now. CBA’s offense has not been able to solve Neptune when Jared Kimbrough has been on the floor, but with some practice time to go back to the drawing board, the Colts should have a better feel for how to attack. If the game is close, CBA’s offensive balance and execution will be the difference, which is why the key for Neptune will be keeping its collective foot on the gas. Given the setting, a close game seems inevitable. The Pick: CBA, 62-58 in overtime
(2) Mater Dei Prep vs. (7) Manasquan, 2:30 p.m.
One point I think needed to be made on the video breakdown that I’ll make here is that Kenny Jones makes a world of difference for Mater Dei. That the Seraphs were able to get past a tough Ocean team without their Loyola-bound point guard is an overall positive, even if there were some tense moments on the way to the finish line. Manasquan can make this game interesting by keeping the Seraphs to one shot and getting itself some extra chances on the glass and that task will be even more manageable if 6-9 center Adam Afifi – who also missed Thursday’s game with a should injury – can’t play or is limited. Mansaquan has played well at the arena in Toms River over the years and it would be surprising to see anything less on Sunday. Mater Dei’s antenna is up after a close call, but they could still be in for another one. If Jones isn’t able to play, the upset alarm will sound in the fourth quarter. The Pick: Mater Dei, 69-63
(3) Rumson-Fair Haven vs. (11) Point Pleasant Beach, 4:15 p.m.
This game is right there with CBA-Neptune as the closest matchup on paper. Point Beach had a chance to take down Rumson in Point Pleasant in January, but the Bulldogs escaped with a four-point win while both teams were a little short-handed. Elijah McAllister made his presence known in that game by scoring in the paint and defending the rim. Point Beach will have one extra shooter this time with Mohamed Traore (24.5 points per game in two rounds of the SCT) now in the fold, but so will Rumson now that Jack Solano is back from a month-long hiatus due to a broken orbital bone. Rumson’s edge is its depth and length, while Point Beach had a point guard in Danny Frauenheim with an endless motor and plenty of history operating around bigger players without any problem. It will take a huge game from Frauenheim for Point Beach to be in position to win the game and while that’s not out of the question, it’s enough for me to play it safe. The Pick: Rumson, 49-46
Round-of-16 Picks Record: 8-0
Overall SCT Record: 15-4
Readers’ Round-of-16 Record: 7-1
Readers’ Overall Record: 16-3