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There are a lot of new, even unusual elements to the 2021 high school basketball season at the Jersey Shore and the planned postseason is among the most unique aspects of this abbreviated season.

In most years, a seeding committee of six or seven Shore Conference coaches (one from each of the conference’s divisions) would seed every team in the conference with a winning percentage of .500 or better to set up the Shore Conference Tournament bracket. Every team knows the mark to reach in order to qualify and if you get in – even if you are not seeded as favorably as you think you deserve – you get a chance to compete for the conference championship.

With only one week (the period between March 1 and March 6) to sort out this year’s unofficial Shore Conference championship, only eight teams will be selected by the seeding committee to compete in what will effectively be the championship pod of the Shore Conference postseason. The other 39 teams in the conference will also be ranked and placed into corresponding pods in order to give them a tournament-style finish to the season, but any team with designs on challenging for the No. 1 spot in the Shore will need to crack the top eight.

With all that being the case, monitoring the top teams in the Shore requires a much deeper dive than just going up to 10 teams. Below is the first of what will be four postseason projections, with updates coming on Feb. 15, Feb. 22 and Feb. 26 before the Shore Conference postseason is seeded on the afternoon of Feb. 26.

Preseason rankings and projections have an influence on the starting point for most teams, but as teams begin to rack up results, those performances will take over as the basis for a team’s projection. Not only will quality of resume be a sticking point this season, but the quality of performances is likely to matter even more than in past years. “Quality losses” and margin of victory should carry more weight this season in separating the teams, particularly with so many of the games available to watch either streaming live or through a team’s video archive.

Now that that’s established, here is the first look at Shore Sports Network’s Boys Basketball Postseason Pod Projections. If you would like to see the official Shore Sports Network Top 10 list, scroll down to the bottom of the post.

 

Championship Pod (Pod A)

1. Manasquan (2-0)

Wins: St. Rose (2)
Losses: None
This Week: Shut down

Despite being shut down until Feb. 13, Manasquan maintains the No. 1 spot in the rankings. The Warriors were impressive in an opening-night win over St. Rose and after a rocky offensive start to the second game against the Purple Roses, Ben Roy took over and ignited another double-digit victory. The two-week shutdown could slow Manasquan’s process of forming new roles around Roy but with a Shore Conference Tournament championship within the last year and plenty of experience from that team, it’s going to take more than a two-week hiatus to knock Manasquan from the top perch.

Ranney sophomore Isaac Hester. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

2. Ranney (3-0)

Wins: Neptune (2), at CBA
Losses: None
This Week: Monday at Wall, Wednesday vs. Wall, Thursday at Marlboro

If there is a team positioned to jump Manasquan while the Warriors are dormant, it is most certainly Ranney. The Panthers are 3-0 with all three wins coming against teams ranked in the top-six and they have an imposing roster loaded with size and athleticism to boot. Last week was supposed to be all about the two-game showdown between Ranney and Manasquan but Manasquan’s shutdown wiped out the series and leaves some mystery when it comes to the No. 1 spot. Without a head-to-head win over Manasquan, Ranney will need a lot to happen in order to jump the defending Shore champs but they will be on their heels all the way through the final day of the season.

3. Marlboro (1-1)

Wins: At Howell
Losses: St. Peter’s Prep
This Week: Tuesday vs. Colonia, Thursday vs. Ranney, Saturday vs. CBA

Marlboro got a late start to the season due to an early shutdown and in two games, the Mustangs have shown plenty of promise. They took a lead into the fourth quarter against the No. 5 team in the state (St. Peter’s) before running out of gas in their first game back, then held off a challenge from Howell on Saturday. The coming week is a huge one for Marlboro, which is scheduled to take on Ranney and CBA on the tail end of the week, if the weather allows for it. With a win in one of those games, the talented, junior-heavy Mustangs would be hard to keep out of the championship playoff pod at the end of the season.

4. Christian Brothers Academy (2-2)

Wins: Freehold Boro
Losses: At Hun, Ranney
This Week: Monday vs. Middletown South, Wednesday at Middletown South, Saturday at Marlboro

If the Colts could have shot the ball from the perimeter a little better on Saturday, they might have had a chance to knock off Ranney, but the Panthers’ length and athleticism bothered CBA just enough to deny the upset. The Colts get another chance to move up this week when they take on Marlboro on Saturday in a game between the two favorites from their pod.

5. Red Bank Catholic (3-0)

Wins: Long Branch (2), Shore
Losses: None
This Week: Shut down

Although Red Bank Catholic won’t get to play for the next week-and-a-half, the Caseys are still set up to win their way into the championship pod if they can win a few big games. They are still in line to face both Red Bank and Rumson-Fair Haven, which should give RBC a chance to prove their worth just enough. They will make up an anticipated game vs. Holmdel, but it won’t come until after the postseason pods are set.

Neptune senior Sam Fagan. (Photo by Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

6. Neptune (2-2)

Wins: Wall (2)
Losses: Ranney (2)
This Week: Wednesday at Monmouth, Friday vs. St. Rose, Saturday vs. St. Rose

No team was a bigger winner this week than Neptune, which essentially guaranteed itself a top-three finish in the pod that also includes Manasquan, Ranney and Wall. Beating Wall twice means the Scarlet Fliers just need to win at least one of the St. Rose games this week and win any crossover games that come up before the Feb. 26 cutoff, and they will be a virtual lock to be in the top eight heading into the first week of March.

7. Holmdel (4-0)

Wins: Colts Neck (2), Middletown North
Losses: None
This Week: Monday at St. John Vianney, Wednesday vs. St. John Vianney

Red Bank Catholic’s shutdown hurts Holmdel more than it hurts RBC because RBC was the only clear top-10 team Holmdel was set to play this season. With St. John Vianney losing to Colts Neck, it appears Holmdel won’t have a pre-cutoff game against a team that is anywhere near the top-eight, which means the Hornets will have to run the table in convincing fashion. After going 23-5 last year and with Alex Baker and Ryan Bradley playing very well early, the Hornets should get the benefit of the doubt as long as they do their part.

8. Rumson-Fair Haven (1-0)

Wins: At Red Bank
Losses: None
This Week: Saturday at Middletown South

There is not a clear No. 8 team at the moment and with a 1-0 record behind a win over a solid Red Bank team, Rumson is that team heading into the third week of the 2021 season. The Bulldogs’ shutdown won’t impact their opportunity to qualify since they are still scheduled to play Red Bank, both Middletowns and Red Bank Catholic, but they will have to ratchet it back up in order to play effectively against those teams and maintain their current spot in the top eight.

Championship Pod Pairings

(8) Rumson-Fair Haven at (1) Manasquan

(5) Red Bank Catholic at (4) CBA

(6) Neptune at (3) Marlboro

(7) Holmdel at (2) Ranney

 

Playoff Pod B

9. Wall (0-3)

Wins: None
Losses: Neptune (2), at Seton Hall Prep
This Week: Monday vs. Ranney, Wednesday at Ranney, Thursday vs. Red Bank, Saturday vs. Point Boro

10. Mater Dei Prep (2-2)

Wins: Keyport (2)
Losses: Olympus Prep, Patrick School
This Week: Tuesday vs. Keansburg, Thursday at Keansburg, Saturday at Don Bosco

11. Manchester (5-0)

Wins: Jackson Liberty (2), Pinelands (2), at Toms River North
Losses: None
This Week: Tuesday at Barnegat, Thursday vs. Barnegat

12. Brick Memorial (4-0)

Wins: Jackson Memorial (2), Lakewood (2)
Losses: None
This Week: Tuesday vs. Howell, Thursday at Howell, Saturday vs. Toms River North

13. Barnegat (4-0)

Wins: Pinelands (2), Middletown South, Freehold Twp.
Losses: None
This Week: Tuesday vs. Manchester, Thursday at Manchester

14. Freehold Township (1-1)

Wins: Manalapan
Losses: At Barnegat
This Week: Wednesday at Manalapan, Thursday at Middletown South, Saturday vs. Howell

15. St. John Vianney (3-1)

Wins: Toms River East, at Colts Neck, Middletown South
Losses: Colts Neck
This Week: Monday vs. Holmdel, Wednesday at Holmdel, Saturday vs. Point Beach

16. Southern (2-1)

Wins: Toms River North, Asbury Park
Losses: At Toms River North
This Week: Tuesday at Donovan Catholic, Thursday vs. Donovan Catholic, Saturday at Lacey

Wall is 0-3, but it is 0-3 against a team in the top-six of the rankings and another that is one of the better programs in the state. With Ranney on tap for this week, there is a pretty good chance the Crimson Knights drop to 0-5 but they will still have time to make it up and win back a top-eight spot.

Mater Dei also has some chances to win its way into the top eight, although it will take a high-level win to get there. Manchester, Brick Memorial and Barnegat are the current teams in the mix for the top spot out of Ocean County and whichever team earns that mantle will have a compelling case to wedge its way into the top eight.

Freehold Township slips to No. 14 in the conference, but the Patriots should be afforded some slack given their loss to Barnegat was their first game back off a brief shutdown. St. John Vianney will also need to make up for a loss, with the Lancers dropping a home game to Colts Neck before winning the second meeting between the two.

Southern holds the last spot in the B Pod, but Toms River North is right behind the Rams after the two split the first series of the season. If Southern can keep pace with Toms River North during pod play and just play Manchester tough, the Rams would get the nod.

Pod B Pairings

(8) Southern at (1) Wall

(5) Barnegat at (4) Brick Memorial

(6) Freehold Twp. at (3) Manchester

(7) St. John Vianney at (2) Mater Dei Prep

 

Playoff Pod C

17. Toms River North (3-2)

Wins: Toms River South (2), Southern
Losses: At Southern, Manchester
This Week: Thursday vs. Lacey, Saturday at Brick Memorial

18. Howell (3-1)

Wins: Lakewood (2), Brick
Losses: Marlboro
This Week: Tuesday at Brick Memorial, Thursday vs. Brick Memorial, Saturday at Freehold Twp.

19. St. Rose (0-2)

Wins: None
Losses: Manasquan (2)
This Week: Friday at Neptune, Saturday vs. Neptune

20. Keyport (3-2)

Wins: Ocean, at Roselle Park, at Point Beach
Losses: Mater Dei (2)
This Week: Tuesday vs. Henry Hudson, Thursday at Henry Hudson

21. Red Bank (0-1)

Wins: None
Losses: Rumson-Fair Haven
This Week: Thursday at Wall, Saturday vs. Monmouth

22. Freehold Boro (3-2)

Wins: Shore, at Raritan, at Point Boro
Losses: CBA (2)
This Week: Wednesday at Long Branch, Thursday at Manalapan

23. Central (3-2)

Wins: New Egypt, Jackson Memorial, Donovan Catholic
Losses: At Washington Twp., at Jackson Memorial
This Week: Tuesday at Lakewood, Thursday vs. Lakewood

24. Middletown North (1-3)

Wins: At Matawan
Losses: Holmdel (2), Matawan
This Week: Monday at Raritan, Wednesday vs. Raritan

Toms River North still has some opportunities – including Saturday’s game at Brick Memorial – to climb into the B Pod. Howell can also make its case as a top-15 team by turning in a strong week vs. Brick Memorial and a decent showing in a loss to Marlboro on Saturday is a early good sign.

St. Rose got clocked twice by Manasquan, although the second game saw the Purple Roses lead the No. 1 team at the Shore after the first 20 minutes. The schedule was always going to be a major obstacle so St. Rose has a long way to go, but also plenty of opportunities to show they can compete with the Shore’s best.

Keyport, meanwhile, is likely to rack up the wins, but does not have any impact games that will give the Red Raiders a chance to move up after losing twice to Mater Dei this past week. On the other hand, Red Bank and Freehold Boro should have some chances to shoot up the pecking order with their quality schedules and solid rosters.

Central is coming off a rough loss to Jackson Memorial and will have to fight to keep its spot the third-tier pod, while Middletown North is coming off two respectable showings against a tough Holmdel squad.

 

Pod C Pairings

(8) Middletown North at (1) Toms River North

(5) Red Bank at (4) Keyport

(6) Freehold Boro at (3) St. Rose

(7) Central at (2) Howell

 

Playoff Pod D

25. Colts Neck (1-3)

Wins: At St. John Vianney
Losses: Holmdel (2), St. John Vianney
This Week: Tuesday vs. Matawan, Wednesday at Matawan, Thursday at Jackson Liberty

26. Lacey (0-0)

Wins: None
Losses: None
This Week: Thursday at Toms River North, Saturday vs. Southern

27. Matawan (2-2)

Wins: At Middletown North, at Raritan
Losses: Middletown North, Raritan
This Week: Tuesday at Colts Neck, Wednesday vs. Colts Neck, Friday at Long Branch

28. Monmouth (0-0)

Wins: None
Losses: None
This Week: Wednesday vs. Neptune, Saturday at Red Bank

29. Raritan (2-2)

Wins: At Ocean, at Matawan
Losses: Freehold Boro, Matawan
This Week: Monday vs. Middletown North, Wednesday at Middletown North

30. Point Pleasant Boro (0-1)

Wins: None
Losses: Freehold Boro
This Week: Tuesday at Pinelands, Thursday vs. Pinelands, Saturday at Wall

31. Middletown South (0-2)

Wins: None
Losses: At Barnegat, at St. John Vianney
This Week: Monday at CBA, Wednesday vs. CBA, Thursday vs. Freehold Twp., Saturday vs. Rumson-Fair Haven

32. Pinelands (1-4)

Wins: Ocean
Losses: Barnegat (2), Manchester (2)
This Week: Tuesday vs. Point Boro, Thursday at Point Boro

Pod D is a mix of teams that have shown some positive signs and others that came into the year with some combination of pedigree and projection. Colts Neck, Matawan and Raritan have secured some good results, Pinelands has some close losses to good teams to their credit, and Monmouth, Lacey, Middletown South and Point Boro still have some high expectations despite a lack of results so far.

Pod D Pairings

(8) Pinelands at (1) Colts Neck

(5) Raritan at (4) Monmouth

(6) Point Boro at (3) Matawan

(7) Middletown South at (2) Lacey

 

Playoff Pod E

33. Shore (1-2)

Wins: Jackson Liberty
Losses: At Freehold Boro, at Red Bank Catholic
This Week: Saturday vs. Ocean

34. Jackson Liberty (1-3)

Wins: At Jackson Memorial
Losses: Manchester (2), at Shore
This Week: Thursday vs. Colts Neck, Saturday at Toms River East

35. Jackson Memorial (1-4)

Wins: Central
Losses: Brick Memorial (2), at Central, Jackson Liberty
This Week: Tuesday vs. Brick, Thursday at Brick

36. Manalapan (0-1)

Wins: None
Losses: At Freehold Twp.
This Week: Wednesday vs. Freehold Twp., Thursday vs. Freehold Boro

37. Donovan Catholic (3-2)

Wins: Toms River East (2), at Toms River South
Losses: Toms River South, at Central
This Week: Tuesday vs. Southern, Thursday at Southern

38. Asbury Park (4-1)

Wins: Keansburg (2), Henry Hudson (2)
Losses: At Southern
This Week: Tuesday at Point Beach, Thursday vs. Point Beach

39. Toms River South (2-3)

Wins: At Donovan Catholic, at Brick
Losses: Toms River North (2), Donovan Catholic
This Week: Tuesday at Toms River East, Thursday vs. Toms River East

40. Long Branch (0-2)

Wins: None
Losses: Red Bank Catholic (2)
This Week: Wednesday vs. Freehold Boro, Friday vs. Matawan

The top three teams in Pod E have some association during the early part of 2021, with Shore beating Jackson Liberty and Jackson Liberty beating Jackson Memorial. Jackson Memorial will be a challenging team to seed if the Jaguars take off when they add Samir Padilla and Respect Tyleek for the second half of the year.

Asbury Park had a favorable schedule to start the year and if the Blue Bishops can grab a few wins during the tail-end of the schedule, there is a chance they can move up.

Donovan Catholic’s lopsided loss at Central and a home loss to Toms River South are an early anchors on the resume but there is still a chance for the Griffins to move up if they round into form. Manalapan and Long Branch have been slowed down by shutdowns (with Long Branch losing games because their opponents have shut down) and will try to gain some momentum over the next couple of weeks.

Pod E Pairings

(8) Long Branch at (1) Shore

(5) Donovan Catholic at (4) Manalapan

(6) Asbury Park at (3) Jackson Memorial

(7) Toms River South at (2) Jackson Liberty

 

Playoff Pod F

41. Point Pleasant Beach (1-2)

Wins: Keansburg
Losses: At Keansburg, Keyport
This Week: Tuesday vs. Asbury Park, Thursday at Asbury Park, Saturday at St. John Vianney

42. Keansburg (1-3)

Wins: Point Beach
Losses: Asbury Park (2), at Point Beach
This Week: Tuesday at Mater Dei, Thursday vs. Mater Dei

43. Brick (0-2)

Wins: None
Losses: At Howell, Toms River South
This Week: Monday vs. Howell, Tuesday at Jackson Memorial, Thursday vs. Jackson Memorial

44. Toms River East (0-3)

Wins: None
Losses: Donovan Catholic (2), at St. John Vianney
This Week: Tuesday vs. Toms River South, Thursday at Toms River South, Saturday vs. Jackson Liberty

45. Ocean (1-3)

Wins: Henry Hudson
Losses: Raritan, at Keyport, at Pinelands
This Week: Saturday at Shore

46. Henry Hudson (0-3)

Wins: None
Losses: Asbury Park (2), at Ocean
This Week: Tuesday at Keyport, Thursday vs. Keyport, Saturday vs. Manville

47. Lakewood (0-4)

Wins: None
Losses: Howell (2), Brick Memorial (2)
This Week: Tuesday vs. Central, Thursday at Central

The bottom seven in the Shore is still written in pencil, with Point Beach trying to get acclimated with a new coach while overcoming a shutdown. Keansburg and Brick, meanwhile, are looking to build on some close games early on.

Ocean got itself a win over Henry Hudson but the Spartans have some ugly losses to overcome if they want to climb, while Toms River East also has its work cut out in order to make a move up the seeding list.

With Lakewood struggling early in the year, Henry Hudson appears safe when it comes to staying out of the last spot and the Admirals will try to make a move up the ranks when they play Keansburg and Point Beach.

Pod F Pairings

(5) Ocean at (4) Toms River East, winner at (1) Point Beach

(6) Henry Hudson at (3) Brick

(7) Lakewood at (2) Keansburg

 

Shore Sports Network Top 10, Feb. 8

1. Manasquan (2-0) Last Week: 1

2. Ranney (3-0) Last Week: 2

3. Marlboro (1-1) Last Week: 3

4. CBA (2-2) Last Week: 4

5. Red Bank Catholic (3-0) Last Week: 5

6. Neptune (2-2) Last Week: 6

7. Holmdel (4-0) Last Week: 7

8. Rumson-Fair Haven (1-0) Last Week: 9

9. Wall (0-3) Last Week: 6

10. Mater Dei Prep (2-2) Last Week: Not ranked

Dropped Out

Freehold Township (1-1) Last Week: 10

 

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