There are three teams ahead of undefeated Delaware Valley in the race for one of the top two seeds in the South Jersey Group 2 supersection, and the question is: Will they be able to catch two of them?
Winning out is their best bet, as they’ve already gotten through the easier part of their schedule, at least based on Strength Index. With an OSI of 49.8, they will get a big boost from two of their next three pponents, providing they beat them. Hillside is a 76.46 and St. Thomas Aquinas has a 77.35 SI. Even 3-2 Roselle, their middle opponent, has a 52.59 SI, all of which will bring up their rank.
And that’s good, because Point Pleasant Boro, which is in first, has an OSI of 51.95, while Camden has a 51.8 OSI. Del Val is right in range. But there are even more teams between they could jump, who are behind them in the standings but stronger in OSI rank, like Haddonfield (9th overall, 51.16 OSI) and Bernards (5th, 49.97). Passing four teams would drop 2.4 off Del Val’s UPR, giving them a 2.4, putting them in second – if no one else moves.
But, of course, they can. And the Shore Conference, in scrapping its plan for the in-season playoffs they touted in the off-season, has given its teams good games. Everyone Point Boro will play is in the low 70s, so they can pick up their OSI and UPR, too. Camden has Pleasantville (45.82), undefeated Cedar Creek (90.16) and Woodrow Wilson (81.53). Cedar Creek won’t be a gimme, though, to boost their average; the Pirates are 7-0 with four shutouts, and have not allowed anyone more than eight points in a game this year.
Bernards sits in 5th, and the question for the Montaineers is can they finish top eight and get a first-round home game? What about 4th, to get home field advantage at least guaranteed for the first two rounds of the sectionals? Well, their OSI won’t be helped by the remainder of the schedule. With an OSI of 49.97, even winning out might drop their OSI, with Voorhees (46.56), South River (48.25) and Middlesex (47.95) all potentially bringing their average down slightly.
The Mountaineers have an Strength Index value of 75.76, so they would do well to avoid beating any of those teams by more than 30 points. Keeping it in the high teens and low 20s would drive the other teams’ SI’s up, increasing Bernards’ OSI, or at least maybe keeping it steady. (The only week that won’t work is the final week of the season, when SI vales are locked in after Week 8 to avoid that kind of thing. But hey, isn’t that also good sportsmanship, and the whole reason the NJSIAA scrapped the Born Power Index in the first place?)
For New Providence (7th overall in the UPR standings) and Hillside (10th), their question is: Can they at least get into that top eight to get a home game?
The Pioneers can only win the games on their schedule, but they do them no favors with Roselle Park, and Governor Livingston a combined 1-14, bringing very little to the table in terms of power points or Strength Index. They might be at the mercy of what teams can pass them in the final three weeks, or benefit from teams ahead of them falling.
The same can be said for the Comets. What’s amazing about this section so far is that the top six teams include four with either two or three losses. The next ten includes one undefeated team (Nottingham) and six one-loss teams (New Providence, Hillside, Overbrook, Sterling, Monmouth, and Middle Township. It might be a crap shoot for Hillside if any one of these teams falters, assuming the Comets can keep winning.
Things will come into much more focus as we get closer to the cutoff.
And lest we forget about Bound Brook, the Crusaaders are 14th with a UPR of 14 (which means they’re 14th in both OSI and power points). Their power point average is 9.83 and their OSI is 39.95. They may very well need to win out to stay in the playoff chase. It all starts with a big one tonight against Brearley (3-2, 16 power points, 59.01 SI). Then there’s another one next week against Manville (4-3, 19 power points, 47 SI). Then Roselle is their cutoff weekend opponent, 3-2, worth 16 power points, and with a 52.59 SI. (Remember, power point values can increase between now and then as teams win more games.