Boys Basketball – Subtle Changes as SCT Approaches in Week 5 Shore 16, Presented by SAVVY FIT SOAPS
In less than two weeks, a committee of Shore Conference coaches will attempt to seed the Shore Conference Tournament and it will be one of the more challenging endeavors a seeding committee has ever had to handle. Perhaps the stakes aren’t high if you are of the belief that a St. Rose championship is inevitable, but keep in mind two things: 1) nothing is automatic; 2) making it to the final is a big deal.
Next week, Shore Sports Network will attempt to forecast the tournament seeding, but for now, we are sticking with the top 16 while keeping an eye on some of the key results already in the book and the pivotal games coming up.
There remains a significant amount of parity beyond the No. 1 ranking and the difference between No. 2 or No. 3 may not be all that great, although the teams currently holding a top-three seed – which is where every team would like to land – would like to validate that ranking over the next two weeks and will certainly have a chance to do so.
1. St. Rose (15-1) Last Week: 1
St. Rose has bullied the Shore Conference teams on its schedule, but the out-of-conference opponents have provided some more resistance. The latest test was against Ramapo Saturday in the Jimmy V Showcase at Central, where St. Rose led, 32-30, with 6:30 left before exploding for a 23-3 run that turned a nail-biter into a laugher. It’s back to the Shore Conference this week and that includes two big ones against No.2 and No. 3 in this week’s rankings.
2. Manasquan (13-1) Last Week: 2
A close call against St. John Vianney notwithstanding, the Warriors are rolling along at 13-1 and that takes them to Monday against St. Rose in Manasquan. It remains to be seen which Shore Conference team has the ingredients to challenge the Purple Roses for four quarters and Manasquan, while dealing with injuries throughout the year, figures to be the team with the pedigree to do it. It’s not the same roster that beat St. Rose last year, but the players who remain know what it takes to pull it off. The question is, do the Warriors have what it takes?
3. Christian Brothers Academy (11-3) Last Week: 4
Since losing at Red Bank in December, CBA has looked like the third-best team in the Shore Conference, including in an overtime loss to Manasquan. This week, the Colts will have a chance to validate this ranking and then some this week with dates vs. Marlboro, Howell and St. Rose – teams that have combined for a 32-10 record this season. Coming off a big win over Red Bank Catholic on Saturday, CBA has a chance to go even bigger this week.
4. Holmdel (11-2) Last Week: 3
The Hornets have not done much of anything wrong this season, with their only two losses coming to No. 1 and No. 2 in the rankings. The reason Holmdel drops a spot this week is because the two biggest wins the Hornets earned – Toms River North and Ranney – have lost some prestige after Toms River North lost to Matawan on Saturday and with Ranney mired in a 1-7 slump. The rest of the schedule sets Holmdel up nicely to enter the Shore Conference Tournament with two losses, but there might not be enough high-level wins to get back to that No. 3 spot. While that is the big-picture discussion for Holmdel, the short-term conversation is all about Monday’s big division game vs. a surging Freehold Boro squad.
5. Red Bank Catholic (10-5) Last Week: 6
Three of Red Bank Catholic’s five losses are to the top three teams in the current rankings and one of the other two is on the road against a 12-1 East Orange team. The other loss is a 31-point loss to a Colts Neck team ranked just outside the top 10, but RBC has wins over three teams ranked between the Caseys and that Cougars team that blew them out. RBC will play another two more of those teams on this week with home games against Manalapan and Rumson-Fair Haven.
6. Rumson-Fair Haven (11-3) Last Week: 5
Rumson’s three losses are a two-point defeat against No. 3 CBA and double-digit losses to talented, out-of-conference opponents St. Peter’s Prep and Rutgers Prep. This week, the Class B North division is very likely on the line in the form of a home showdown with Colts Neck and a rivalry game at Red Bank Catholic on Thursday. With the division still in play and RBC on tap at the end of the week, the Bulldogs still have a top-four ceiling for the Shore Conference Tournament.
7. Central (11-3) Last Week: 7
The Golden Eagles are playing as well as any Shore team not named St. Rose and should their play continue through Feb. 3, Central will be in the conversation for a top-three spot in the Shore Conference Tournament. There are some résumé issues that could limit Central, specifically losses to Marlboro and Red Bank Catholic, but the fact that Central handled Toms River North after losing to the Mariners the first time around speaks to how much better the Golden Eagles are playing. With six straight games against teams with a losing record, Central does not have a lot of chances to strengthen its case between now and the Feb. 4 seeding, but if Central is 18-3 with a Feb. 3 win over currently-unbeaten Haddonfield and a 14-game winning streak, that sure looks like a top-three seed.
8. Red Bank (11-3) Last Week: 9
A top-10 ranking is coveted for most of the year, but this is the time of the Shore Conference season in which it is not so comfortable for a team to find itself in the 8-to-10 range of the top 10. Red Bank has a win over No. 3 CBA and other quality wins over Marlboro, Southern, Howell, Manalapan and Ranney, with one more opportunity coming against Red Bank Catholic. That With a strong finish to January and a win in the rematch vs. RBC, the Bucs would have a strong case to get out of the No. 8 spot – which they already do as is.
9. Marlboro (7-5) Last Week: 10
The Mustangs might prefer to remain the No. 10 team in the rankings in a little less than two weeks, but for now, they have earned a chance to move up. At 7-5, the record is not great, but four of their losses are to top 10 teams and the other is to a Colts Neck squad that Marlboro beat the second time around. Throw in a road win over a Central team that has a legitimate chance to climb to No. 2 by the time the SCT is seeded and Marlboro’s prospects of a top 10 seed are promising. If the Mustangs can knock off CBA on Monday, the seed ceiling is even higher.
10. Toms River North (9-4) Last Week: 8
The Mariners have what might be the best win of anybody outside the top two in the field, which is a 10-point win over No. 2 Manasquan. Right now, however, that win has to carry them, because losses to Toms River South and Matawan will weigh Toms River North down when it comes to jumping some of the other contenders for a higher ranking or SCT seeding. Right now, Toms River North’s focus is winning the Class A South title, which will likely require a win at Southern on Monday. If the Mariners can do that, they will get one more chance to make a seeding statement with a game vs. Rumson at the Metro Classic.
11. Manalapan (9-4) Last Week: 11 – The Braves have not played since the last rankings, when they debuted at No. 11. A road game at RBC on Tuesday is a chance for Manalapan to climb into the top 10.
12. Colts Neck (8-4) Last Week: 12 – The B North title is still in play for Colts Neck, but Monday’s trip to Rumson is just about a must-win game if they want to take the division championship.
13. Freehold Boro (9-3) Last Week: 13 – Speaking of division titles, Freehold Boro faces its biggest game of the season Monday, with the Colonials hosting No. 4 Holmdel with winner gaining the inside track for the A Coastal division title.
14. Donovan Catholic (10-3) Last Week: 16 – The Griffins picked up an inspiring win over Robbinsville on Saturday thanks to a last-second shot by Ryan Jacobs and are getting close to a lock to host a first-round game in the SCT.
15. Howell (10-4) Last Week: Not ranked – The Rebels are back in the rankings ahead of a crucial week that includes Red Bank Catholic on Monday and games on back-to-back days vs. CBA and Marlboro.
16. Middletown South (5-7) Last Week: Not ranked – There is no perfect choice for No. 16 and this week, the nod goes to the Eagles, who have seven losses to ranked opponents, swept St. John Vianney, and own a win over a Matawan at full strength that looks very good after the Huskies upset Toms River North on Saturday.
Ranney (6-7) Last Week: 14 – The Panthers are banged up physically and possibly psychologically, with Ranney mired in a 1-7 stretch following a 5-0 start.
Toms River South (10-4) Last Week: 15 – A loss to Barnegat drops Toms River South out, but the Indians bounced back nicely from the loss to the Bengals by beating Toms River East and Shore. A top-16 spot is still in play.