What a year the Bound Brook Crusaders have had.
Lucky enough to have no COVID pauses, Anthony Melesurgo’s squad has persevered, and reaped the rewards of their sacrifice to stay safe and stay on the court.
Bound Brook has finished the regular season with an 11-0 mark, entering the postseason as the only undefeated team out of the 54 calling either the GMC or Skyland Conference home.
All but one of Bound Brook’s games came against league competition, with their lone out of conference game coming against a Linden team whose 1-11 record is deceptive, by virtue of playing in the Union County Conference’s stacked Watchung Division – which includes Roselle Catholic, Elizabeth and Union – as well as Paterson Eastside and Montgomery.
Bound Brook won all four of its games this week: Monday at Linden 68-61, Tuesday at North Plainfield 56-41, Thursday at home against Bernards 73-61 (on Central Jersey Sports Radio), and Saturday afternoon against Voorhees 78-55.
The Crusaders are the top-seed in the “Gold Division” bracket of the Skyland Conference Tournament, which will include three ‘pods” this year, and for the first time ever put teams in Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex Counties in the same field.
Bound Brook – No. 9 in the CJSR Top Ten – will face 8th-seed Bridgewater-Raritan (0-12) in the opening round Tuesday at home. Should they advance, they would face either 4th-seed Bernards or 5th-seed Hillsborough.
Bound Brook did not play the Raiders this year. They beat Bernards twice: once this past week, and 39-33 the previous Friday.
Four others unbeaten in league play…
As we’ve mentioned, no one in the GMC or Skyland has an unblemished record besides Bound Brook, but four other teams – two in each conference – are perfect in their own league.
In the Skyland, those two teams are in the same division: Montgomery and Rutgers Prep.
The Cougars are 8-0 in the Sklyand, while the Argonauts are just 4-0, thanks to a series of COVID stoppages they hope are behind them now that tournament play is about to begin. The quirk is that because of those stoppages, Montgomery and Rutgers Prep have not played each other.
That could change next week if both win their opening round playoff games, since they’re together on the same side of the bracket in the upper “Blue Division” pod.
On Tuesday, 2nd-seed Montgomery faces 6th-seed Ridge, a team they beat twice this year: 77-35 and 47-30. Third-seed Rutgers Prep opens play against 7th-seed Franklin, which they beat 67-60 on Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, the two teams unbeaten in league play were part of a group of three until St. Joseph-Metuchen got knocked off by North Brunswick. St. Thomas Aquinas and Wardlaw-Hartridge are unblemished in the conference.
Wardlaw is 11-0 in the league, while Aquinas is just 4-0. They filled gaps on their schedule with seven non-conference foes, including their dramatic double overtime win Saturday afternoon against state-ranked Hudson Catholic (No. 11 in the NJ.com Top 20 this past week)
That win – and St. Joe’s league loss to North Brunswick Saturday – likely leaves Aquinas as the top overall seed in the GMC postseason. Hudson Catholic was the lone common opponent for the Falcons and Trojans. And while Aquinas will play the Raiders Monday night (on Central Jersey Sports Radio at 6 pm – click here to listen) that’s after the GMC seeding takes place Monday morning.
How will the GMC seeding play out?
Of course, everyone will pay attention to the top pod, which will be a de facto GMC Championship, though it remains to be seen if that team will be considered a GMC Tournament winner for posterity.
They won’t have gone through the gauntlet of the GMC Tournament, a quick sprint to the finals, but note this: only four teams seeded lower than 4th have ever won the GMC Tournament since its inception in 1986 (its predecessor was the Middlesex County Tournament). Even rarer, it’s only happened once that a team seeded lower than a four has won since the turn of the century.
The group includes some interesting teams.
The Larry Spigner-led Metuchen team won the title in 1988, shocking top-seed St. Peter’s of New Brunswick 55-53 in overtime. Spigner dropped 27 in the final.
In 1997, North Brunswick was a 5-seed and beat 2nd-seed St. Joseph – with Jay Williams – 66-55. Ed Breheny coached that team, and believes that was the last time his Raiders beat the Falcons – until, of course, this weekend.
In 2007, it was 6th-seed Piscataway with a mild upset of 5-seed Cardinal McCarrick, as Guy Jensen’s squad topped the Eagles 59-50. It was the first time neither team was a top-4 seed going all the way back to the 1982 MCT final, which saw then St. Thomas Aquinas – the 6-seed – beat 5th-seed St. Joe’s 49-47. That’s the only other time that’s happened, going back to the debut of the Middlesex County Tournament in 1965.
So back to the question at hand: who will be in the GMC’s Top Four?
Aquinas is a lock for the top-seed, which leaves three positions.
Those should probably be filled by St. Joseph of Metuchen, Colonia and South Brunswick.
Does North Brunswick have a case after knocking off the Falcons? Probably not based on the overall resume. They’re just 6-5, with losses to all three other teams likely to be in the top four pod: Colonia (66-49), South Brunswick (61-57) and St. Thomas Aquinas (62-56). They also lost by 6 at East Brunswick on Thursday.
So how will the GMC seed the rest of the field behind the Trojans?
Well, you could look at South Brunswick beating North Brunswick by four on Feb. 20, and St. Joe’s losing to North Brunswick Saturday, which would put the Vikings ahead of the Falcons, if you believe in sports’ most unreliable rule: the transitive property. But South Brunswick lost to St. Joe’s.
Colonia beat North Brunswick in their lone matchup this year (the second one was snowed out) so that would seem to put them at least above St. Joe’s, which lost to the Raiders. But how do they compare with South Brunswick?
The only common opponent is Edison: Colonia won by 13 on the road on Feb. 11, while South Brunswick won at Edison on Jan. 30 by two.
In league play, South Brunswick has two losses: 69-64 at St. Joe’s on Feb. 6, and 68-56 at East Brunswick on Feb. 13.
Colonia’s only league loss came to Aquinas, 75-63 on Feb. 13.
For that reason, I’ll go with:
- St Thomas Aquinas
- St. Joseph of Metuchen
- South Brunswick
I get that the more recent result is that North Brunswick beat St. Joe’s, and South Brunswick beating North Brunswick wasn’t far behind that, but in the end, it’s a pretty clear head-to-head.
That’s how the GMC typically seeds, and that’s how I’ll go here.
The GMC seeding will be done Monday morning – for the boys and the girls – and Central Jersey Sports Radio will have all the brackets as soon as they are released by the league to the media.