Boys Basketball – Shore Conference NJ Playoff Projections With One Week To Go
There is only one week left in the regular season but as we have learned over the course of the last year, a week can be an eternity and this week could feel like one. Teams are getting shut down as part of COVID-19 protocol every week and it is highly likely that multiple teams will have to bow out of the postseason festivities next week (click here to read the breakdown of the format in the first edition of the projections).
As it currently stands as of Monday afternoon, four teams have withdrawn from consideration for the postseason: Freehold Township (shut down), Point Pleasant Beach (shut down), Henry Hudson (shut down/opted out) and Lakewood (opted out).
With that said, barring any sort of mass shutdown (unlikely, but not inconceivable) the postseason is set to be seeded on Friday with whichever teams are left. With 43 teams, only four pods will be played as eight-team tournaments while the other two will consist of predetermined matchups.
In this update, we'll take a closer look at the eight teams in the second pod, which carries some significance. Not only are the top teams in that tier still vying for a top-eight spot but the eight teams that wind up in that pod will be competing for a spot in the final Shore Conference Top 10.
Here is how the 43-team field currently looks heading into the first night of games this week.
Championship Pod (Pod A)
1. Manasquan (5-0) Change: None
Wins: St. Rose (2), Montclair Immaculate, Wall, Don Bosco
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Neptune, Wednesday vs. Neptune, Thursday vs. Trenton Catholic
Before this week, there was some question about whether or not Manasquan should be the No. 1 seed: The Warriors had only played two games and they were both against a winless St. Rose team, while Ranney had racked up six straight wins against better competition. That talk has cooled for the moment thanks to a rousing return to action by Manasquan, which knocked off two NJ.com Top-20 opponents in Montclair Immaculate and Don Bosco, as well as Shore Sports Network Top 10 team Wall. It’s not locked up yet – Manasquan faces three opponents this week that will overlap with Ranney’s resume – but the inside track to No. 1 still belongs to the defending Shore Conference Tournament champs.
2. Ranney (7-0) Change: None
Wins: Neptune (2), Wall (2), at CBA, at Marlboro, at St. Rose
Before the Cutoff: No games
The red flag is up with Ranney after its Monday game with Trenton Catholic was cancelled, Trenton Catholic replaced the game with a live-streamed intrasquad scrimmage and no comment from anyone in the Ranney athletic department about why the game was canceled. Games against Red Bank Catholic and Colonia have yet to be canceled, so as of Monday afternoon, Ranney is still among the teams vying for postseason seeding. With the Trenton Catholic game off, even if Ranney does not endure an extended shutdown and enters the pod playoffs, the Panthers are ticketed for No. 2.
3. Christian Brothers Academy (6-3) Change: None
Wins: Freehold Boro (2), Middletown South (2), at Marlboro, at Freehold Twp.
Losses: At Hun, Ranney, Marlboro
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Manalapan, Wednesday vs. Manalapan
What was an easy decision at No. 3 becomes a little more complicated after Marlboro beat CBA on the road on Saturday. CBA walloped Marlboro by 33 points on Feb. 13, so if point-differential means anything, the Colts should still get the nod at No. 3 when it’s time to seed the championship pod. Barring a loss to Manalapan, CBA is a safe bet for a top-four spot in the conference and a home game, but depending on which team the Colts would prefer to play in the first round and which top-two seed they would prefer in a potential semifinal, the 3-vs.-4 argument is consequential.
4. Marlboro (5-3) Change: None
Wins: At Howell, Colonia, at Manalapan, at Freehold Boro, at CBA
Losses: St. Peter’s Prep, Ranney, CBA
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Middletown South, Wednesday at Middletown South
While CBA’s case for the No. 3 seed is based on the margin of victory, Marlboro’s is based on the circumstances. The day before Marlboro lost to CBA, 75-42, at home, the Mustangs had just played Ranney the day before and looked to have nothing after CBA hit them with an early 12-0 run. Even CBA coach Geoff Billet acknowledged that it had to be a factor based on his own experience and the return win by the Mustangs a week later at CBA suggests there is likely a lot of truth to the theory that Marlboro didn’t have the legs to play CBA the first time around. If you prefer to look at the second meeting as more telling because both teams had the proper amount of time to rest and prepare, Marlboro would be the more likely pick at No. 3.
5. Red Bank Catholic (5-0) Change: None
Wins: Long Branch (2), Shore, at Red Bank, Monmouth
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Rumson-Fair Haven, Wednesday vs. Rumson-Fair Haven
The Caseys don’t yet have a win over a team with a winning record and it is possible they still will not if they beat Rumson-Fair Haven twice this week to drop the Bulldogs to 4-4 as we hit the seeding date. RBC has also not come close to losing, validating their No. 5 preseason ranking through sheer dominance of the teams they have been able to play. Red Bank Catholic is scheduled to play Ranney and Holmdel before the postseason, but both games are after the cutoff. With two wins over Rumson, however, the Caseys can make a strong case for No. 5 and a reasonable one for a home game.
6. Neptune (2-2) Change: None
Wins: Wall (2)
Losses: Ranney (2)
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Manasquan, Wednesday at Manasquan
Neptune is set to return this week after a COVID-related shutdown and ready to welcome the Scarlet Fliers back is No. 1 Manasquan. This week for Neptune is just about getting back into the swing of things and the results against Manasquan should not carry too much weight. The Scarlet Fliers already beat Wall twice and were competitive in two losses to Ranney – all of which should be enough to land Neptune a spot somewhere in the top eight.
7. Holmdel (6-0) Change: None
Wins: Colts Neck (2), Middletown North (2), St. John Vianney (2)
Before the Cutoff: Shut down
Holmdel was slightly less convincing than Red Bank Catholic was in its undefeated start but the Hornets can also make the claim that they have played the better schedule to date. There is not as much experience on Holmdel and the Hornets will be coming out of a two-week shutdown when they finally return on Friday against Donovan Catholic and Saturday vs. Red Bank Catholic. With no games to play, the Hornets obviously can’t win their way into a higher spot but a loss by Red Bank Catholic to Rumson could be the catalyst for a move up to No. 5 without Holmdel having to even enter a gym.
8. Wall (3-6) Change: +1
Wins: Red Bank, Point Boro, St. Rose
Losses: Neptune (2), Ranney (2), at Seton Hall Prep, at Manasquan
Before the Cutoff: Monday at St. Rose
There will be plenty of people who cry foul at the idea of team with a 4-6 record (which Wall will have to be if it indeed plays one game vs. St. Rose before the cutoff) making the championship pod and it’s an understandable grievance to at least raise. Ultimately, however, if the task is to pick the eight best teams, Wall’s case as one of the eight best seems considerably more compelling than the teams that would replace the Crimson Knights. Five of Wall’s six losses are to teams ranked in the top six of these rankings, three of them are to Nos. 1 and 2 and their sixth loss is against perennial Non-Public A contender Seton Hall Prep. Wall dominated in wins over Red Bank, Point Boro and St. Rose and taking a one-point lead into the fourth quarter against both Manasquan and Ranney is more of an accomplishment than most teams can boast.
Championship Pod Pairings
(8) Wall at (1) Manasquan
(5) Red Bank Catholic at (4) Marlboro
(6) Neptune at (3) CBA
(7) Holmdel at (2) Ranney
Playoff Pod B
9. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-2) Change: -1
Wins: At Red Bank, Barnegat, at Middletown South, Middletown North
Losses: Colonia, Monmouth
This Week: Monday vs. Red Bank Catholic, Wednesday at Red Bank Catholic
A home loss to Monmouth has Rumson on the outside looking in for now, but it does not bury the Bulldogs. They played that game without standout guard Geoff Schroeder, who returned to the lineup on Saturday in a 58-43 win over a Middletown North that had just handed Montgomery its first loss. That doesn’t make the Monmouth loss a complete throwaway but it does mean if Rumson can beat Red Bank Catholic at least once this week, the Bulldogs deserve very serious consideration for one of the eight spots. If they can’t beat RBC, they won’t have much of a case.
10. Mater Dei Prep (6-3) Change: None
Wins: Keyport (2), Keansburg (2), Point Beach (2)
Losses: Olympus Prep, Patrick School, at Don Bosco
Before the Cutoff: Shut down
Mater Dei is the 26th Shore Conference team to shut down due to COVID-19 this season and it’s hard to find a shutdown that cost a team more on the basketball court than the Seraphs’ shutdown will. Mater Dei was scheduled to face Hunterdon Central on Saturday and Ranney twice during the week and a win among that trio of games plus commendable performances in the other two might have landed the Seraphs in the top eight considering Wall’s record. Instead, Mater Dei finishes its regular season with all six of its wins coming against Group I teams and three double-digit losses to prep powers. Mater Dei deserves credit for taking on the challenge of the Patrick School and Don Bosco, but in order to get the eighth spot, they had to play one of them close. On the bright side, the Seraphs will be back in action for the postseason and could close the year by winning the B Pod.
11. Southern (7-1) Change: +1
Wins: Toms River South (2), Toms River North, Asbury Park, at Donovan Catholic, at Lacey, Pinelands
Losses: At Toms River North
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Manchester, Tuesday vs. Toms River East, Thursday, at Toms River East
Although Southern is ranked behind Mater Dei heading into the week, the Rams might be the sleeper to steal the No. 8 spot. Monday’s game against Manchester is a chance to prove themselves, even with Manchester coming off a 25-point defeat at the hands of Lacey (which Southern already beat). If the Rams can sweep the week, they will be on a 10-game winning streak and will have a pretty clear case as the top team in Ocean County. That may not be enough to jump a 4-6 Wall team, but it could be enough to climb over dormant Mater Dei and Rumson if the Bulldogs lose both games to Red Bank Catholic.
12. Manchester (5-1) Change: -1
Wins: Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), at Toms River North
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Southern, Tuesday vs, Point Boro, Thursday at Point Boro
Although Manchester got to return to the court to try to steal one of the top eight spots, the shutdown halted the Hawks’ momentum and a 25-point loss to Lacey upon their return essentially eliminates them from championship-pod contention. Beating Southern would indicate the Hawks should get a mulligan when it comes to seeding within the B Pod, but the resume was already going to be a little light for a team trying to climb into the top pod. A perfect record was more-or-less a requirement for Manchester to have a shot.
13. Toms River North (8-2) Change: +2
Wins: Toms River South (2), Toms River East (2), Southern, Lacey, at Brick Memorial, Howell
Losses: At Southern, Manchester
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday at Donovan Catholic, Thursday vs. Donovan Catholic
Toms River North’s wins over Southern and Lacey continue to gain prestige, which allows the Mariners to move up a couple more spots this week after debuting in Pod C. With two games against a 3-4 Donovan Catholic team coming off a shutdown and a 20-point loss to Manchester, this is about as high as Toms River North is going to go.
14. Barnegat (6-2) Change: -1
Wins: Pinelands (2), Middletown South, Freehold Twp., at Toms River East, Red Bank
Losses: At Rumson-Fair Haven, at Point Boro
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Point Boro, Tuesday vs. Jackson Liberty, Thursday at Jackson Liberty
Barnegat had a bad 14 minutes against Point Boro on the road and that is currently keeping the Bengals out of their home gym, where they are 4-0, in the first round of this pod. It’s still possible Barnegat could slip to Pod C with a loss or two this week and this is about as high as they can get. On the plus side, wins over Middletown South and Freehold Township are still serving as protection from a significant plunge.
15. St. John Vianney (4-3) Change: -1
Wins: Toms River East, at Colts Neck, Middletown South, Sinai Christian
Losses: Holmdel (2), Colts Neck
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Matawan, Wednesday vs. Matawan, Thursday at St. Thomas Aquinas
If not for the loss at Colts Neck, St. John Vianney would be another darkhorse candidate to sneak into the top eight. Their wins aren’t particularly inspiring, but the Lancers’ only other losses are to Holmdel and this week includes two games against a solid Matawan team and one against a state-ranked opponent in St. Thomas Aquinas.
16. Middletown South (2-5) Change: None
Wins: Freehold Twp., at Manalapan
Losses: CBA (2), at Barnegat, at St. John Vianney, Rumson-Fair Haven
This Week: Monday vs. Marlboro, Wednesday at Marlboro
After starting the year shut down, Middletown South stumbled big-time out of the gate but has since righted the ship with wins over Freehold Township and Manalapan with a close loss to Rumson-Fair Have mixed in. Like St. John Vianney and Rumson, Middletown South has a major opportunity this week in the form of two games against No. 4 Marlboro. If the Eagles can win one of those games, it further excuses lopsided losses to Barnegat and Vianney as the product of rust. It likely won’t, however, give them enough reason to jump the three teams in this pod that beat them – at least not all three.
Pod B Pairings
(8) Middletown South at (1) Rumson-Fair Haven
(5) Toms River North at (4) Manchester
(6) Barnegat at (3) Southern
(7) St. John Vianney at (2) Mater Dei Prep
Playoff Pod C
17. Central (6-2) Change: +6
Wins: Lakewood (2), New Egypt, Jackson Memorial, Donovan Catholic, Howell
Losses: At Washington Twp., at Jackson Memorial
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday vs. Brick Memorial, Thursday at Brick Memorial
18. St. Rose (0-4) Change: +2
Losses: Manasquan (2), Ranney, at Wall
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Wall, Tuesday at Freehold Boro
19. Lacey (2-3) Change: +12
Wins: At Monmouth, at Manchester
Losses: At New Egypt, at Toms River North, Southern
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Pinelands, Tuesday at Toms River South, Thursday vs. Toms River South
20. Monmouth (3-3) Change: +6
Wins: Ocean, at Red Bank, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Losses: At Ocean, Lacey, at Red Bank Catholic
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Long Branch, Wednesday at Long Branch
21. Middletown North (4-4) Change: +1
Wins: Raritan (2), at Matawan, at Montgomery
Losses: Holmdel (2), Matawan, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Colts Neck, Wednesday vs. Colts Neck
22. Howell (5-4) Change: -4
Wins: Lakewood (2), Brick Memorial (2), Brick
Losses: Marlboro, at Freehold Twp., at Central, at Toms River North
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Donovan Catholic, Thursday at Jackson Memorial
23. Colts Neck (3-5) Change: +1
Wins: At St. John Vianney, Matawan, at Jackson Liberty
Losses: Holmdel (2), St. John Vianney, at Matawan, Raritan
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Middletown North, Wednesday at Middletown North
24. Matawan (5-3) Change: +1
Wins: At Middletown North, at Raritan, Colts Neck, at Long Branch, Donovan Catholic
Losses: Middletown North, Raritan, at Colts Neck
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. St. John Vianney, Wednesday at St. John Vianney
Pod C includes this week’s highest climber, which is Lacey. The Lions started 0-3 after waiting more than two weeks to open their season and have since scored wins over Monmouth and Manchester on the road – a good sign for a team reliant on sophomore talent that did not have a lot of practice time together before game one.
Monmouth is also trending in the right direction despite losing by double-digits Saturday to Red Bank Catholic. Tuesday’s win over Rumson-Fair Haven was the big boost for the Falcons. Central got the same bump thanks to a win over Howell and a win over a common opponent that beat fast-rising Lacey – both of which help cover up the loss to Jackson Memorial.
Howell falls having lost to Central and Toms River North, plus Brick Memorial’s drop takes some impact out of those two wins. St. Rose is an interesting team in this group at 0-4, but with all four losses coming to top-eight teams (twice vs. Manasquan, once each vs. Ranney and Wall).
Pod C Pairings
(8) Matawan at (1) Central
(5) Middletown North at (4) Monmouth
(6) Howell at (3) Lacey
(7) Colts Neck at (2) St. Rose
Playoff Pod D
25. Keyport (5-2) Change: -4
Wins: Asbury Park (2), Ocean, at Roselle Park, at Point Beach
Losses: Mater Dei (2)
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Koinonia, Tuesday at Keansburg, Thursday vs. Keansburg
26. Manalapan (2-4) Change: +2
Wins: Freehold Boro (2)
Losses: Freehold Twp. (2), Marlboro, Middletown South
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. CBA, Wednesday at CBA, Friday at Matawan
27. Freehold Boro (4-5) Change: +2
Wins: Shore, at Raritan, at Point Boro, at Long Branch
Losses: CBA (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday vs. St. Rose
28. Raritan (4-4) Change: +2
Wins: At Ocean, at Matawan, Brick, at Colts Neck
Losses: Middletown North (2), Freehold Boro, Matawan
Before the Cutoff: No games
29. Point Pleasant Boro (2-3) Change: +3
Wins: Pinelands, Barnegat
Losses: Freehold Boro, at Pinelands, at Wall
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Barnegat, Tuesday at Manchester, Thursday vs. Manchester
30. Red Bank (0-6) Change: -3
Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven, at Wall, Monmouth, Freehold Twp., Red Bank Catholic, at Barnegat
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Shore, Wednesday vs. Shore
31. Jackson Liberty (5-4) Change: +5
Wins: Pinelands (2), at Jackson Memorial, at Toms River East, at Long Branch
Losses: Manchester (2), at Shore, Colts Neck
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday at Barnegat, Thursday vs. Barnegat
32. Pinelands (2-8) Change: +1
Wins: Ocean, Point Boro
Losses: Barnegat (2), Manchester (2), Jackson Liberty (2), at Point Boro, at Southern
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Lacey
Without a lot of impact wins and a mild scare vs. Asbury Park on the road this week, Keyport drops into Pod D while maintaining a case to go back into the C Pod, although their schedule this week won’t give the Red Raiders much of a chance to further convince anyone.
Red Bank is the other big drop and while the Bucs don’t have any especially ugly losses, they are 0-6 without four losses in winnable games (Rumson-Fair Haven, Freehold Township, Monmouth and Barnegat).
The last team in the pod is the biggest riser, with Jackson Liberty riding a four-game winning streak into Pod D despite a head-to-head loss against one of the teams now behind it (Shore). The Lions added Donovan Catholic transfer Dallas Weisse since that loss and are starting to look like a more complete outfit.
Pod D Pairings
(8) Pinelands at (1) Keyport
(5) Point Boro at (4) Raritan
(6) Red Bank at (3) Freehold Boro
(7) Jackson Liberty at (2) Manalapan
Playoff Pod E (Six Teams)
33. Ocean (4-4) Change: +1
Wins: Henry Hudson, Monmouth, Long Branch, Shore
Losses: Raritan, at Keyport, at Pinelands, at Monmouth
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Brick, Tuesday vs. Asbury Park, Thursday at Asbury Park
34. Shore (2-3) Change: +1
Wins: Jackson Liberty, Long Branch
Losses: At Freehold Boro, at Red Bank Catholic, at Ocean
Before the Cutoff: Monday vs. Red Bank, Wednesday at Red Bank
35. Donovan Catholic (3-4) Change: +3
Wins: Toms River East (2), at Toms River South
Losses: Toms River South, at Central, Southern, at Matawan
Before the Cutoff: Monday at Howell, Tuesday vs. Toms River North, Thursday at Toms River North
36. Brick (2-3) Change: +9
Wins: Brick Memorial (2)
Losses: At Howell, Toms River South, at Raritan
This Week: Monday vs. Ocean, Tuesday at Lakewood, Thursday vs. Lakewood
37. Brick Memorial (5-5) Change: -18
Wins: Jackson Memorial (2), Lakewood (2), at Toms River South
Losses: Howell (2), Brick (2), Toms River North
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday at Central, Thursday vs. Central
38. Jackson Memorial (1-4) Change: -1
Losses: Brick Memorial (2), at Central, Jackson Liberty
Before the Cutoff: Thursday vs. Howell
Pod E includes the biggest dive and the second-largest climb and they are both from the same town and both happened because of one another. In actuality, Brick Memorial’s 19-spot drop has more to do with the season-ending ankle injury to 6-foot-6 center Luke Braaten, whom the Mustangs missed in dropping five straight games before beating Toms River South Saturday.
Brick is the team that capitalized on the misfortune of its crosstown rival, beating Brick Memorial twice this week to climb into Pod E following a 0-3 start. If Brick gets in its two games vs. Lakewood, the Green Dragons will likely be heading into Friday with a record no worse than .500.
Instead of a tournament set-up, the six teams in Pod E will each play three games, with the matchups predetermined prior to the start of the week.
Playoff Pod F (Five Teams)
39. Asbury Park (5-4) Change: None
Wins: Keansburg (2), Henry Hudson (2), at Point Beach
Losses: Keyport (2), at Southern, Point Beach
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday at Ocean, Thursday at Ocean
40. Toms River South (3-7) Change: None
Wins: At Donovan Catholic, at Brick, at Toms River East
Losses: Toms River North (2), Southern (2), Donovan Catholic, Toms River East, Brick Memorial
Before the Cutoff: Tuesday vs. Lacey, Thursday at Lacey
41. Long Branch (0-7) Change: None
Losses: Red Bank Catholic (2), Freehold Boro, Matawan, at Ocean, at Shore, Jackson Liberty
This Week: Monday at Monmouth, Wednesday vs. Monmouth
42. Toms River East (1-8) Change: None
Wins: At Toms River South
Losses: Donovan Catholic (2), Toms River North (2), at St. John Vianney, Toms River South, Jackson Liberty, Barnegat
This Week: Tuesday at Southern, Thursday vs. Southern
43. Keansburg (2-5) Change: -1
Wins: Point Beach, Koinonia Academy
Losses: Asbury Park (2), Mater Dei (2), at Point Beach
This Week: Monday at Manville, Tuesday vs. Keyport, Thursday at Keyport
Like Pod E, there will not be a tournament form to Pod F. Instead, teams will be paired up in some configuration and since there is currently an odd number of teams in the pod, one team will be off on each day of the postseason week.
Every team in this group could conceivably play they way out of it with a win or two this week but the matchups suggest this is a close approximation to what the final five will look like.
Shore Sports Network Top 10, Feb. 22
1. Manasquan (4-0) Last Week: 1
2. Ranney (7-0) Last Week: 2
3. CBA (6-2) Last Week: 4
4. Marlboro (4-3) Last Week: 3
5. Red Bank Catholic (4-0) Last Week: 5
6. Neptune (2-2) Last Week: 6
7. Holmdel (6-0) Last Week: 7
9. Wall (2-6) Last Week: 9
9. Rumson-Fair Haven (3-2) Last Week: 8
10. Mater Dei Prep (6-3) Last Week: 10