Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Feb. 24
Less than a week away from crowning a new Shore Conference Tournament champion, there has invariably been a shakeup in the rankings. One of the top-four seeds failed to make the SCT semifinals and while that will not change the teams in the top five, it does change the order of the top five, as well as the composition of the next five.
The days are running out for teams to make a major impact on the rankings but anyone not named Manasquan can do damage by winning two more SCT games, after which the NJSIAA Tournament brings about plenty of possibility.
1. Manasquan (25-1, 14-0) Last Week: 1
Since the start of the season, the tag line on Manasquan’s top-ranked status is “Manasquan is the clear No. 1 until somebody beats them.” Now, less than a week away from the Shore Conference Tournament final, teams haven’t really come close to beating the Warriors. Holmdel and Rumson were each within a basket in the final minute but both also lost lopsided games earlier in the year. Manasquan is a combined 5-0 against the other three teams left standing in the SCT and if the Warriors can make it 7-0 and win their first SCT title in 63 years, the chase for No. 1 in 2020 is officially over.
2. Toms River North (23-3, 14-0) Last Week: 3
The jump from No. 3 to No. 2 by Toms River North isn’t as simple as “Middletown South lost and Toms River North advanced to the semifinals, so Toms River North is No. 2.” Middletown South still has an unbeaten mark in a tougher division and the loss to Mater Dei is not much different than Toms River North’s loss to Lincoln. While the trip to the SCT semifinals is part of the Mariners’ move back to No. 2, what sealed it was their dominance of Marlboro. That’s now twice that Toms River North handled the second-best team in Class A North, which weakens the argument that Class A North would have handed Toms River North a loss over 14 games. It’s still close, but Toms River North has caught up and taken over No. 2 for now.
3. Middletown South (22-2, 14-0) Last Week: 2
The No. 3 team at the Shore did not even make it to the final eight, but the overall body of work still puts the Eagles in the running for the No. 2 spot. Middletown South is still an unbeaten A North champion, still has a win over Mater Dei to go with the buzzer-beating loss, and still has additional wins over Marlboro, Ranney, Red Bank Catholic, Matawan and Rumson-Fair Haven. More good news for Middletown South is it still has a clear chance to pass Toms River North in the rankings, which the Eagles can do by making it to the Group IV championship game. They are the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group IV and Toms River North is No. 1 in South Jersey so there is a reasonable chance their paths eventually will cross.
4. Holmdel (20-3, 12-2) Last Week: 4
Holmdel has one more loss than Middletown South does but one of their three loses was a six-point home loss to Manasquan when the Warriors had their whole team. That puts Holmdel on the tier that includes Toms River North and Middletown South as teams with solid cases to be the No. 2 team in the Shore Conference. The only thing really holding Holmdel back is that it is not a division champion and the only reason it is not a division champion is because it just happens to share a division with the No. 1 team, which also happened to beat Middletown South and Toms River North handily. The path to No. 2 is narrow, but Holmdel is still in position to get there by continuing to play well can getting some help from other teams in Group IV against Nos. 2 and 3.
5. Marlboro (19-6, 11-3) Last Week: 5
With each week, Holmdel has asserted itself more and more as the No. 4 team in the top 10 while Marlboro has plateaued at No. 5. The Mustangs have only lost to teams that are in the current top 10 and five of their six losses are against the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the rankings. They also managed to reach the SCT quarterfinals despite dealing with some injury and illness over the last two weeks but ran into a buzz saw in Toms River North. The Mustangs will move on to the Central Jersey Group IV Tournament as the No. 3 seed.
6. Red Bank Catholic (17-8, 7-7) Last Week: 6
For the first time since 1994, RBC is headed to the SCT semifinals after holding off Mater Dei Prep on Sunday. The reason the Caseys are holding at No. 6 instead of climbing into the top five is because the highest seed RBC had to beat to get to the semifinals was No. 10 and the Caseys already did some their heavier lifting to get to No. 6 last week. Next up for RBC is a date with No. 2 Toms River North and if the Caseys can give the Mariners a serious challenge on their home floor, they will have a good case to slide up to No. 5.
7. Ranney (16-8, 12-0) Last Week: 10
Despite a quiet SCT exit against Manasquan on Sunday, Ranney moves up the rankings because of not only its own trip to the quarterfinals but also thanks to Mater Dei’s run to the quarterfinals. Sweeping the Seraphs on the way to a third straight outright B Central title is Ranney’s best resume nugget and the Panthers will have a chance to add to that resume in a loaded NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B bracket.
8. Christian Brothers Academy (13-11, 9-5) Last Week: 8
While CBA’s SCT forfeit fiasco hurts the Colts on a lot of levels, it doesn’t disqualify them from appearing in the Top 10. They still have a head-to-head win over Mater Dei, plus wins over Marlboro, Manalapan and St. Joseph Metuchen and two competitive showings vs. Middletown South. Missing out on a chance to pad the resume in the SCT does hurt, but it’s not like CBA’s accomplishments get wiped out by playing one game too many during the regular season. It will be tough to add to their case in the state tournament, when the Colts play a talent-rich St. Thomas Aquinas squad in the first round of the South Non-Public A bracket.
9. Mater Dei Prep (15-10, 10-2) Last Week: Not ranked
Mater Dei has some good results on its resume and played good competition throughout the year to get the Seraphs into the rankings, but two different parts of the resume stand out and are pulling them in opposite directions within the Top 10. The win over Middletown South gives Mater Dei some ammo to make a move toward the top five, but two losses to Ranney by double-digits mean the Seraphs can’t, under any current circumstances, go ahead of the rival Panthers. Throw in head-to-head losses to RBC and CBA and Mater Dei is a solid top-10 team but more tailored for the back-end.
10. Wall (20-6, 14-0) Last Week: 7
Wall got a favorable draw in the Shore Conference Tournament as the No. 5 seed considering the best seed it defeated all year was No. 14 Matawan. For Wall to assert itself as a contender for the top-five in the Top 10, it needed to at least take Holmdel down to the wire and that did not happen. The Crimson Knights got off to a strong start in the game but Holmdel quickly erased a 10-point deficit, took the lead for good and put the game away midway through the fourth quarter. Wall has a case to be ranked ahead of Mater Dei and CBA because of its status as a division champion and because its in-conference losses are to the No. 1, No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 teams, but both CBA and Mater Dei have much better top wins on their respective resumes without taking any bad losses. Wall will now look to defend its Central Jersey Group III title as the No. 1 seed in the bracket for the second straight year.
Manalapan (13-9, 8-6) Last Week: 9 – Mater Dei’s win over Middletown South had to knock somebody out of the Top 10 and that somebody is Manalapan. Unlike CBA, Mater Dei and Wall, Manalapan has a loss to a team with a team that did not qualify for the SCT (Howell) which makes them a more obvious candidate to drop out.
Top 10 Watch List
Lakewood (18-5, 12-2) – The Piners ran into an RBC team hitting its stride right now and will have a chance to make one last case for the Top 10 by making a deep run in the Central Jersey Group III field.
Matawan (13-12, 10-4) – Matawan got over its first-round curse in the SCT and bowed out to Toms River North in round two. Like Lakewood, a deep run in CJ III could sharpen the Huskies’ Top 10 case.
St. John Vianney (16-8, 8-6) – The Lancers won a rubber match against Neptune on the road and gave Manasquan some early headaches before losing, 59-45. In order to make a serious run at the top 10, the Lancers will have to knock off top-seeded Paul VI in the South Jersey Non-Public A second round, which is quite the task.
Ocean (12-10, 6-8) – The Spartans are always ready to play the underdog role come tournament time and after upsetting Rumson and giving Holmdel a game on the road, Ocean is well-positioned to make more noise in CJ III.
Neptune (13-11, 8-6) – After a quick exit in the SCT, Neptune will try to mount another run to the CJ III semifinals – which the Scarlet Fliers have done each of the past two seasons – and try to take things a step further this year.
Rumson-Fair Haven (14-10, 9-5) – An early-season win over Red Bank Catholic is Rumson’s best win and the Bulldogs did not have any glaring losses during the year, which is why their loss to Ocean was somewhat surprising. Rumson will try to make a run in Central Jersey Group II but will have to go through Manasquan to do so and that is assuming it can get past A.L. Johnson in round one.
St. Rose (13-10, 6-8) – The Purple Roses picked up a first-round road win in the SCT and gave Wall a pretty good challenge in the following round. Throw in a regular-season win over No. 6 RBC and St. Rose has earned some consideration.