If it seems like the Shore Conference Tournament came up quickly this year, that’s because it has. The tournament will start a week earlier than it did last year and 10 days earlier than three years ago. With the seeding meeting scheduled for bright-and-early on Saturday morning, Friday will be the final day for teams to qualify and polish up their resumes.

That makes for some major complications for the seeding committee, never mind scheduling during the first week of the tournament. First of all, no more than two of the six divisions will have an official champion yet because the divisional schedule extends all the way until the end of next week.

Secondly, teams within the divisions have played different opponents, meaning some have played tougher schedules than others. For example, Freehold Township leads A North, but has not yet played CBA or Middletown South – two teams ranked in the preseason top 10 and likely to be seeded in the SCT top 10 – and won’t play either until after the tournament is seeded.

Thirdly, athletic directors are still scheduling as though it was 2016, when the meeting was on a Monday after the final divisional games had wrapped up. The meeting is now 10 days earlier, which not only knocks out division games but also wipes out some significant crossover games that could be helpful in seeding the tournament. To use Freehold Township again, the Patriots are set to play Jackson Memorial on Saturday in a game that will not matter at all in the seeding.

With all that being said, we are looking at one of the most wide-open tournaments in years and the early start should only add to that. With cutoff day complete, 29 teams have officially qualified for one of the more even top-to-bottom fields in recent memory.

That will make the seeding committee’s job harder than ever and while criteria like head-to-head wins, common opponents and division standing will all still matter, the wide-open nature of this year’s Shore Conference could mean the good-ole-fashioned eye test may come into play.

As wide-open as the tournament should be, the discussion for the No. 1 seed should be a very brief one. After that, we could be in for a wild ride but as the tournament approaches, at least we already know which team will top the list heading into next week's action.

Holmdel senior Mark Walier. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Updated with games played on Friday, Oct. 4.

1. Holmdel (11-0, 5-0)

Division Wins: At Manasquan, at Monmouth, Raritan, Rumson-Fair Haven, Shore
Division Losses: None
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Middletown South, at Freehold Twp., at Colts Neck, at Toms River South, Matawan, at Pinelands
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Hornets might have lost eight starters from the No. 1 team in the state but the remaining group has shown it knows how to win. That’s all Holmdel has done to this point, winning all 11 games prior to Saturday’s seeding meeting. Class A Central has looked solid outside the division and Holmdel has wins over some noteworthy opponents. Not much to debate here.

2. Marlboro (10-1, 5-1)

Division Wins: CBA, Freehold Boro, at Howell, at Manalapan, Middletown South
Division Losses: Freehold Township
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Brick, at Toms River North, at Wall, at Red Bank Catholic, at Toms River East
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Although not currently at the top of their division, the Mustangs have done the work of a No. 2 seed. Marlboro lost a competitive 1-0 decision to Freehold Township and has knocked off all of their other opponents. Wins over CBA, Wall, Middletown North and Toms River North are all impressive and with only one slip-up, Marlboro is still deserving.

3. Jackson Memorial (11-1, 6-0)

Division Wins: Brick Memorial, at Brick, Central, Southern, at Toms River East, at Toms River South
Division Losses: None
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Pinelands, at Jackson Liberty, Manalapan, at Howell, Manasquan
Non-Division Losses: Colts Neck
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Wednesday's win over Southern should be significant for Jackson Memorial, which should now be a lock to play at home in a would-be quarterfinal game. It's still up for debate how to sort through the top of A North and A South but the Jaguars have made a strong case for themselves by minimizing the slip-ups and wrapping up the division before the cutoff. Through in some key players getting healthy for next week and Jackson looks like a top-three team.

4. Freehold Township (8-4, 5-0)

Division Wins: Freehold Boro, Howell, Long Branch, at Manalapan, at Marlboro
Division Losses: None
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At St. John Vianney, Allentown, at Franklin
Non-Division Losses: At Toms River North, Holmdel, at Elizabeth, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: As the front-runner in Class A North and a team that just beat Marlboro, Freehold Township can make a case to be No. 2 or 3. On the other hand, the Patriots have four losses – two of which came against teams that were .500 heading into the week (Toms River North and Rumson-Fair Haven). It’s also worth noting that the Patriots have not yet had to play CBA or Middletown South so those games could certainly affect how Freehold Township finishes in the A North race.

5. Christian Brothers Academy (6-3-1, 3-2-1)

Division Wins: Freehold Boro, Howell, at Manalapan
Division Losses: At Long Branch, at Marlboro
Division Ties: Middletown South
Non-Division Wins: Vs. Washington Twp., vs. St. Joseph (Pa.), Ocean
Non-Division Losses: St. Benedict's
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: It had been some time since CBA failed to win in three straight matches but that’s what the Colts endured with back-to-back losses to Long Branch and Marlboro and a draw vs. Middletown South. The Colts have since rebounded by beating St. Joseph of Pa., Freehold Boro and Ocean, and put a scare into the No. 1 team in the country on Monday. The performance against St. Benedict's suggests perhaps CBA should be No. 2 or 3 but there has been just enough inconsistency for CBA to remain part of the pack rather than ahead of it at the moment.

6. Wall (10-2, 5-1)

Division Wins: At Colts Neck, Middletown North, Neptune, at Red Bank
Division Losses: At Matawan
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Freehold Boro, St. Rose, at Rumson-Fair Haven, Manasquan, Shore
Non-Division Losses: Marlboro
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: A convincing win over Colts Neck on Friday puts the Crimson Knights in the running for a top-five seed. Wall's resume stacks up fairly well against that of CBA and while CBA's best performances stand out a little more than Wall's, the Knights boast a nice collection of wins over tournament teams (Colts Neck, Freehold Boro, Manasquan, Rumson, Middletown North and Neptune).

7. Southern (8-2-1, 4-1-1)

Division Wins: Brick, at Brick Memorial, Toms River East, Toms River North
Division Losses: At Jackson Memorial
Division Ties: At Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: At Manalapan, Atlantic Tech, Long Branch, Shawnee
Non-Division Losses: At Lacey
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Southern took its first loss of the season on Wednesday in a 1-0 loss at Jackson Memorial and other than the fact that it's a loss right before the cutoff, it should not sink the Rams. With wins over two A North teams (Long Branch and Manalapan) and a convincing win over Shawnee to go with a solid divisional record, Southern has a cleaner resume than the other teams trying to grab that last spot in the top-four.

8. Freehold Boro (7-6, 2-5)

Division Wins: Howell, at Middletown South
Division Losses: At CBA, at Freehold Twp., Long Branch, Manalapan, at Marlboro
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Ocean, at Brick, at Point Boro, Colts Neck, Jackson Liberty
Non-Division Losses: Wall
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: With a 2-5 division record and an overall mark one game over .500 does not seem like something a top-10 seed would offer but Freehold Boro has wins over the right teams. Among the next wave of teams are Colts Neck, Middletown South, Long Branch and Manasquan and Colts Neck and Middletown South belong at the top of that tier. The Colonials have wins over both, thus they get the nod. If Colts Neck beats Wall and jumps up to No. 7, that could set off a chain reaction that drops Freehold Boro into the double-digits.

9. Colts Neck (6-3-1, 4-1-1)

Division Wins: Matawan, Neptune, Ocean, at St. John Vianney
Division Losses: None
Division Ties: At Red Bank
Non-Division Wins: Red Bank Catholic, at Jackson Memorial
Non-Division Losses: Holmdel, at Freehold Boro
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Since handing Jackson Memorial its first loss of the season last week, Colts Neck has hit a rough patch. After losing to Freehold Boro on a penalty kick, the Cougars followed it up with a draw against an Red Bank team that has yet to win a Class B North divisional game, then got handled by Wall on Friday, 3-0. That win over Jackson Memorial should still give the Cougars an edge over Middletown South but the recent results could cost them.

10. Middletown South (6-3-3, 2-2-2)

Division Wins: Howell, Long Branch
Division Losses: Freehold Boro, at Marlboro
Division Ties: At CBA, Manalapan
Non-Division Wins: Ocean, at Red Bank Catholic, Point Boro, at Middletown North
Non-Division Losses: At Holmdel
Non-Division Ties: At Manasquan
Why They’re Here: All three of Middletown South’s losses came against teams ranked in the top eight and the Eagles also have a tie vs. CBA on in their body of work. Even though there are no wins that really jump off the page, Middletown South should be safe in the top 10.

11. Long Branch (5-5-1, 4-2-0)

Division Wins: CBA, at Freehold Boro, at Howell, Manalapan
Division Losses: At Freehold Twp., at Middletown South
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Ocean
Non-Division Losses: Red Bank, Middletown North, at Southern
Non-Division Ties: At Matawan
Why They're Here: Although the Green Wave have some early albatrosses on their resume, they have been very good since that 0-2-1 start. Since losing to Red Bank and Middletown North and tying a shorthanded Matawan side, Long Branch has only lost to Southern, Middletown South and Freehold Township while beating CBA and Freehold Boro. Long Branch has a case to be ahead of Colts Neck and Freehold Boro but the slow start and loss to Middletown South keeps the Wave in the double-digits.

12. Manasquan (5-5-1, 4-2-0)

Division Wins: Monmouth, at Raritan, at Red Bank Catholic, Shore
Division Losses: Holmdel, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Neptune
Non-Division Losses: Ocean, at Jackson Memorial, at Wall
Non-Division Ties: Middletown South
Why They're Here: The preseason No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 had to scratch and claw just to get in but not that they are, the Warriors have plenty going for them. Manasquan finished second in a Class A Central division that fared well against other divisions and got a draw against a Middletown South squad that should make the top 10.

13. Monmouth (10-2, 3-2)

Division Wins: At Shore, Raritan, Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Losses: Holmdel, at Manasquan
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Brick, at St. John Vianney, Mater Dei, Central, at Henry Hudson, St. Rose, Red Bank
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: For a team that has been a top-half team in B North and A Central and made runs in the Shore Conference and state tournaments, Monmouth plays an awfully soft out-of-division schedule. That will hurt them when it comes to seeding but on the flip side, the Falcons have also shown they belong when they do play quality teams. Holmdel had to work hard for a 3-1 road win over the Falcons and Manasquan did not put the Falcons away until the 98th minute.

14. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-5, 3-2)

Division Wins: Manasquan, Red Bank Catholic, Shore
Division Losses: At Holmdel, at Monmouth
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Ocean, Freehold Twp.
Non-Division Losses: At Lacey, at Middletown North, Wall
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They're Here: With wins over Freehold Township and Manasquan, the Bulldogs have shown they can beat high-profile opponents. Losses to Lacey and Middletown North don't look as great, but came early in the year when every team involved was much different. The loss to Monmouth puts the Bulldogs behind the Falcons but with those two big wins, there's a case to be made for a better draw.

15. Matawan (6-4-1, 4-2-0)

Division Wins: At Middletown North, at Red Bank, at St. John Vianney, Wall
Division Losses: At Colts Neck, Ocean
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Donovan Catholic, at Ranney
Non-Division Losses: At Raritan, at Holmdel
Non-Division Ties: Long Branch
Why They’re Here: Matawan is not out of the running for a B North title share heading into Friday and with its win over Middletown North on Thursday, the Huskies make a nice jump into the slot that carries with it a first-round home game. A win over Wall and a draw vs. Long Branch while playing most of the game with 10 men are results that should ensure that home game.

16. Toms River South (4-4-1, 3-2-1)

Division Wins: At Central, at Toms River East, Toms River North
Division Losses: Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial
Division Ties: Southern
Non-Division Wins: At Jackson Liberty
Non-Division Losses: At Howell, Holmdel
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They're Here: Toms River South's best win is over a .500 Toms River North team but the Indians showed their toughness against tough competition in a 0-0 tie vs. Southern and a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Holmdel. Losses to Brick Memorial and Howell are working against Toms River South but the Indians may have done just enough to get a home game.

17. Toms River North (6-4-1, 2-2-1)

Division Wins: Brick Memorial, at Central
Division Losses: At Southern, at Toms River South
Division Ties: Toms River East
Non-Division Wins: Freehold Twp., at Point Boro, at Jackson Liberty, at Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Losses: Marlboro, Howell
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Mariners made a statement on opening night by beating a talented Freehold Township side, 5-4. Since then, Toms River North has had an unassuming run that includes a recent loss to a 3-8 Howell team. With Thursday's win over Jackson Liberty, the Mariners are in but won't have a chance to climb before the meeting.

18. Neptune (7-4, 2-3)

Division Wins: Middletown North, St. John Vianney
Division Losses: At Colts Neck, Ocean, at Wall
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Point Boro, at Lakewood, Manchester, at Point Beach, at Ranney
Non-Division Losses: At Manasquan
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Like Monmouth, Neptune dominated a soft non-divisional schedule, although the Scarlet Fliers did so while replacing one of the Shore’s best duos last year in Wilby Alfred and Mickenna Church. Neptune also gave Wall a tough game last week and beat Middletown North to open up this week, so they could seem to be trending toward a possible first-round home game if everything breaks right at the end of the week.

19. Middletown North (7-6, 3-3)

Division Wins: At Ocean, Red Bank, St. John Vianney
Division Losses: Matawan, at Neptune, at Wall
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Hightstown, at Long Branch, Raritan, Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Losses: Steinert, Middletown South, at Manalapan
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Lions ruled in close games to open the season but lately, their fortunes have gone in the other direction in those games decided by one goal. After starting 5-0 in such games, Middletown North has lost six of them in a row, most recently to Neptune and Matawan. The Lions have a strong body of work that includes some solid wins over Rumson, Long Branch and Raritan, but are trending in the wrong direction when it comes to their seeding.

20. Raritan (5-4, 2-3)

Division Wins: Red Bank Catholic, Shore
Division Losses: At Holmdel, Manasquan, at Monmouth
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Red Bank, Matawan, at Keyport
Non-Division Losses: At Middletown North
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Raritan’s losses are all to quality opponents in competitive games and an overtime win over Matawan gives the Rockets a reasonable case for a home game. Even if they don't get there, they should get a better seed than last year's No. 21 seed, which would be an accomplishment with so many new starters.

21. Pinelands (6-3-1, 5-0-1)

Division Wins: At Donovan Catholic, Jackson Liberty, at Lacey, at Lakewood, at Point Boro
Division Losses: None
Division Ties: Barnegat
Non-Division Wins: At Shore
Non-Division Losses: Jackson Memorial, Holmdel
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Despite losing some impact scorers, Pinelands has played well and could very well capture a third straight B South title. The Wildcats have not, however, beaten a team that currently has a winning record and four of their five wins are against teams that have long since been eliminated from Shore Conference Tournament contention. Pinelands gets points for competing against Jackson Memorial and Holmdel but this is about as high as they can go.

22. Lacey (6-4-3, 2-3-1)

Division Wins: At Donovan Catholic, Jackson Liberty
Division Losses: Barnegat, at Manchester, Pinelands
Division Ties: Lakewood
Non-Division Wins: Rumson-Fair Haven, Central, Lakewood, Southern
Non-Division Losses: Red Bank
Non-Division Ties: At St. Rose, at Brick Memorial
Why They’re Here: Lacey welcomed goalkeeper Anthony Leporino back to the lineup on Friday and the Lions upset Southern, 1-0. Lacey is now 2-0 with Leporino in goal and the wins are Lacey's two best: Rumson and Southern. Although the Lions are behind Manchester and Barnegat in the B South standings and lost to both, neither of those two have anywhere near the quality of wins that Lacey has in those two prominent wins. With a healthy keeper back and a big win heading into the tournament, Lacey makes the jump from No. 27 to 22.

23. Toms River East (4-4-2, 2-3-1)

Division Wins: Brick, at Central
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial, at Southern, Toms River South
Division Ties: At Toms River North
Non-Division Wins: At Point Beach, at Howell
Non-Division Losses: Marlboro
Non-Division Ties: At Point Boro
Why They’re Here: Toms River East’s most impressive performances this season were not wins, but rather late, one-goal losses to Marlboro and Jackson Memorial and a draw vs. Toms River North. That could buy them another spot or two but teams like Matawan, Neptune, Raritan and Middletown North all have better wins. If quality losses count for anything, the Raiders could better make a case for a home game.

24. Barnegat (8-1-1, 4-1-1)

Division Wins: At Lacey, at Lakewood, Manchester, Point Boro
Division Losses: Donovan Catholic
Division Ties: At Pinelands
Non-Division Wins: Keyport, Ranney, Lakewood, at Central
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Even with a loss to Donovan Catholic Wednesday, Barnegat is off to a historic start in the young history of its program and picked up a big road tie at Pinelands. Division wins over Lacey, Point Boro and Manchester were all landmark wins for the Bengals, but they won’t do much as far as seeding goes.

25. Ranney (4-4, 4-1)

Division Wins: At Asbury Park, Henry Hudson, at Keyport, St. Rose
Division Losses: Point Beach
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: Matawan, at Barnegat, at Neptune
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Ranney is in the tournament after Tuesday's road match at Brick was cancelled due to a no-show by the referees, according to Ranney athletic coordinator Joe Spernal. That's obviously good news in that it gives the young Panthers a chance to prove themselves on a big stage, but it would have been a big confidence boost to beat a Group III school to get in. As it is, all of Ranney's wins are against B Central and the Panthers are likely the be seeded accordingly.

26. St. Rose (5-4-3, 2-1-1)

Division Wins: Asbury Park, at Henry Hudson
Division Losses: At Ranney
Division Ties: At Point Beach
Non-Division Wins: At Point Boro, Central, Manchester
Non-Division Losses: At Wall, at Monmouth, at Howell
Non-Division Ties: Lacey, Donovan Catholic
Why They’re Here: The Purple Roses are in after a much-needed win over Manchester. They followed that up with a 3-3 tie at Point Beach, so St. Rose should be safe in this spot.

27. Manchester (7-4, 5-1)

Division Wins: Donovan Catholic, at Jackson Liberty, Lacey, Lakewood, Point Boro
Division Losses: At Barnegat
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: St. John Vianney, at Keyport
Non-Division Losses: At Neptune, Central
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Hawks ended a three-game losing streak with a comeback, overtime win over Point Boro. For a sophomore-heavy team with a recent history of some rough, rough seasons, Manchester has had a great start and is headed back to the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time in 10 years.

28. Mater Dei Prep (3-3-1, 3-1-0)

Division Wins: Henry Hudson, Keyport, Point Beach
Division Losses: Asbury Park
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: At Monmouth, at Red Bank
Non-Division Ties: St. John Vianney
Why They’re Here: With no games scheduled this week, Mater Dei is in the SCT and should get the nod over Point Beach thanks to a head-to-head win over the Garnet Gulls.

29. Point Beach (5-4-1, 3-2-1)

Division Wins: Henry Hudson, Keyport, at Ranney
Division Losses: At Mater Dei, at Ranney
Division Ties: St. Rose
Non-Division Wins: at Donovan Catholic, Lakewood
Non-Division Losses: Toms River East, Neptune
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Garnet Gulls have a young team that has been met with some highs and lows this season but they will be headed to the SCT next week. Barnegat's loss to Donovan Catholic and St. Rose's win over Manchester could give B Central a case to have some teams bumped up ahead of some of the B South crew.

 

Eliminated

Brick Memorial (3-5-1, 2-4-0)

Asbury Park (5-7, 3-3)

Brick (2-6-1, 1-3-0)

 

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