Boys Basketball – SSN Top 10, Jan. 6
After a short week, the change in the Top 10 is minimal. There are, however, a few changes to cover down near the bottom of the rankings. The most noteworthy characteristic about the current Top 10 is that there is a relative shortage of teams that are on the cusp of pushing in after the year began with a pretty sizable crowd vying for the No. 10 spot.
The other story interwoven into this week’s Top 10 is the big games coming up this week. The Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase always the biggest regular-season event of the Shore Conference season and there are a number of big first-time meetings in divisional play during the days leading up to the Boardwalk at Brookdale.
By the end of this week, either a whole slew of new teams will join the top 10 fray or there will be a collection of five-to-eight teams who more-or-less solidify top 10 spots for the foreseeable future.
1. Ranney (8-0, 3-0) Last Week: 1
The season gets serious this coming weekend for Ranney, which takes on Non-Public A favorite Bergen Catholic on Saturday at the Boardwalk Classic on Saturday, followed by a showdown with MacDuffie (Mass.) on Sunday at the Empire Invitational. That Sunday game is tentatively scheduled to mark the Ranney debut of junior Phillip Wheeler which will give the Panthers a much-needed extra piece for the lineup. Ranney will have to find a way once again on Saturday with just six in the rotation but with the way Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis are playing, they still have a shot o beat any team in N.J.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (7-0, 3-0) Last Week: 2
CBA has been on cruise control early on but the Colts should get challenged this week. Freehold Township pays CBA a visit to open the week and the Colts will close it out against a Gill St. Bernard squad ranked No. 3 in the state. CBA has hopes to challenge for the Non-Public A title this year and Sunday will give the Colts a look at how close they are to that level in mid-January.
3. Manasquan (8-1, 4-0) Last Week: 3
The Warriors remain the favorite to win the Class A Central title and will put that to the test when they travel to Red Bank Catholic on Thursday. After losing to Marlboro, Manasquan has bounced back with wins over Middletown South and Monmouth, with Alex Galvan continuing to dominate on the inside. The week ends at the Boardwalk Showcase against a Neptune squad still trying to regroup after losing sophomore Sam Fagan for the season.
4. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-1, 3-1) Last Week: 4
The Rumson offense has been lighting up the scoreboard for most of the season behind Ian O’Connor and Jackson McCarthy, but the Bulldogs defense has stepped up in a number of key spots as well. The Bulldogs will need to be sharp on both sides again this week with match-ups against Holmdel and Middletown North coming up. By Saturday against Middletown North at the Boardwalk Showcase, O’Connor (950 points) is likely to be within a few points of 1,000 for his career.
5. Red Bank Catholic (8-1, 3-1) Last Week: 5
The Caseys are on a six-game roll, although RBC labored through the second half against Raritan to end last week. This coming week starts with Monmouth Regional and will peak with a home date against Manasquan on Thursday, which will mark RBC’s chance to get back in the Class A Central division race. The Caseys will also have to fend off Middletown South at the Boardwalk Showcase after shooting the lights out in a 75-59 win over the Eagles in the WOBM Classic semifinals.
6. Freehold Township (6-1, 4-0) Last Week: 7
It seems pretty clear that Freehold Township is in the early stages of a redemption tour after going 9-13 last year, but this week will mark the Patriots’ toughest challenge of the new season. Freehold Township opens the week with a trip to CBA, then hosts Marlboro on Thursday in just about the toughest one-two punch of division games a team will play all year. The Patriots will then close the week with a road game at Holmdel, which will be out to prove something as well.
7. Marlboro (6-3, 2-2) Last Week: 6
The Mustangs slip a spot in the rankings after getting picked off at Long Branch on Friday. That loss probably looks worse than it is considering the Green Wave started 0-5, but Long Branch has some potential and with a team of football players whose season ended in early December, the Green Wave are likely just hitting their stride. Marlboro, meanwhile, still has that win over Manasquan so the drop this week is minimal. The Mustangs will be under the gun again this week with dates against Middletown South and Freehold Township.
8. Wall (6-2, 4-0) Last Week: 8
In a B North division that had the look of a crowded field, Wall has been the earlier pace-setter. The Crimson Knights are the last unbeaten team in that field and have beaten Middletown North, St. John Vianney and, most recently, Neptune. That road win at Neptune was another sign that Wall is ready to make a serious play for this division title, particularly with Neptune and Middletown North struggling early on. This week will test how upset-proof Wall is, with a home game at Ocean and one at Colts Neck.
9. Holmdel (4-3, 3-1) Last Week: 10
The trio of Holmdel, Middletown South and Matawan are all pretty close in their current standing. Middletown South has a head-to-head win over Matawan, Matawan has a win over an Old Bridge team that beat Holmdel and Holmdel handled a Manalapan team that beat Middletown South. Holmdel has the least impressive current resume of the three but hold a slight edge on Middletown South with that Manalapan win. The Hornets will have a great chance to prove themselves this week with a schedule that includes No. 4 Rumson, Monmouth and No. 6 Freehold Township.
10. Middletown South (5-3, 2-1) Last Week: Not ranked
The Eagles debut in the top 10 after ending Matawan’s six-game home winning streak. Couple that win with one over Toms River North in the WOBM Classic and Middletown South has a pretty strong resume relative to the other teams vying for spots in the 7-to-10 range. This coming week, Middletown South could move significantly with matchups upcoming against Marlboro, Long Branch and Red Bank Catholic.
Matawan (7-2, 3-1) Last Week: 9 – The Huskies are still on the doorstep of the Top 10 but a loss to Middletown South put them on the wrong side of the line for now.
Top 10 Watch List
Toms River North (5-3, 4-0) – Although clearly the A South favorite, the Mariners are 0-3 outside of Ocean County and will eventually have to step up outside the division to guarantee a return to the top 10.
St. John Vianney (5-3, 2-2) – A four-game winning streak has the Lancers headed in the right direction and that streak doesn’t included their best result – an overtime win over Matawan. Vianney is the hot team in B North other than Wall, but any B North team could get hot and position itself for a Top-10 appearance.
Brick (4-2, 3-1) – In all honesty, it’s hard to find a fourth team that is at all close to the top 10 right now. Brick’s only losses are to Toms River North on the road and to Monroe at the buzzer so the Green Dragons could, conceivably climb in over the next few weeks.