Barring the unthinkable happening for either team, the Rutgers Prep Girls and Gill St. Bernard’s boys are likely to be the top seeds in their respective Skyland Conference “postseasons,” where eight-team pods will be formed to play down to champions.
On the girls’ side, Rutgers Prep – No. 1 in the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings – showed their dominance against the No. 2 team in the rankings, Franklin, handing the Warriors their second Skyland Conference defeat this week (they lost to Hillsborough Tuesday). That hasn’t happened since January 2017. The Argos led 35-6 at halftime and won 65-33.
Gill, meanwhile, sits atop the Delaware Division, with a rematch with second-place Hunterdon Central not coming until Thursday, the day after the Skyland seeds the tournament Wednesday morning. Seeding committee chair Jason Miller says all games up to and including Tuesday, February 23rd will be considered.
The committee will include Miller, the athletic director at South Hunterdon, as well as six other ADs: Montgomery’s Chris Penna, Phillipsburg’s Tom Fisher, Bound Brook’s Jeff Steele, Immaculata’s Mike Gambino, Bridgewater-Raritan’s John Maggio, and Rutgers Prep’s Mary Coyle-Klinger. Jack Baum – the Sykland’s assignor of officials – also is on the committee.
Girls’ play begins Monday, and will continue Wednesday and Friday, while the boys will start Tuesday, and continue Thursday and Saturday, the final day of play allowed this season by the NJSIAA, which is not holding the state tournament this year due to the COVID-shortened season.
While the top picks on the girls’ and boys’ side seem easy, who will be right behind them? Who else will be in the upper pod of eight on the girls’ side? What other teams will be in the boys’ top pod of seven? (The boys’ side has one less team than the girls.)
Here’s a look at Central Jersey Sports Radio’s projections, based on results through Saturday, February 20th.
Oh, and one last request: please be kind? This is my first basketball tournament projection – ever! I don’t like to do projections unless there’s math involved – even if it is the Born Power Index.
Skyland Boys’ Top 7 Pod:
- Gill St. Bernard’s (4-2) – The Knights are the easy top pick from the league’s top division, despite their two losses, which have both come out of conference – to Bergen Catholic and Patrick School. They have legit D1 talent, are ranked No. 6 statewide, and pass the eye test. They’re the best team in the league until someone knocks them off. In the seven-team format, Gill would get a bye from Monday’s first-round.
- Hunterdon Central (6-2) – The Red Devils are right behind the Knights, and gave them a run in a 77-64 road loss on Feb. 4 (click here for our postgame coverage). Too bad they won’t get another crack at Gill – at home – before the seeding is done.
- Montgomery (7-1) – How much will Monday night’s result against St. Joseph-Metuchen (6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio – click here to listen) weigh in? Tough to say. A win against one of the top few teams in the GMC and a state power program may boost the Cougars’ standing here more than a loss to a solid non-conference opponent. Their only loss came this week, to Shore Conference opponent Middletown North.
- Bound Brook (7-0) – Sure, the Crusaders are a small-school program, but undefeated has to count for something. And Bound Brook has been playing well, and deserves a home game (in a 4-5 matchup). The only problem is, only two of their seven opponents (Warren Hills and Bernards) have winning records at the moment. They’ve been mostly scoring points in bunches.
- Watchung Hills (6-2) – Led by dual-sport star Chad Martini – the football QB who just scored his 1,000th point – the Warriors are quietly having a good season, overshadowed in the big-boy Delaware Division by Gill and Hunterdon Central. Making the top seven would put three teams from the Delaware in the upper pod, but they deserve it. Hills lost by five to the Red Devils on February 5th, and rematch Tuesday, the day before the committee seeds this thing. That game could disrupt the apple cart. Stay tuned…
- Rutgers Prep (2-3) – The Argonauts were first hit by the late preseason news that Villanova signee Trey Patterson would be leaving the Somerset school to enroll early down on the Main Line. Then, they had not one, but two COVID stoppages, and are still trying to find their sea legs. They’re a tricky team to figure; they deserve to be in the top seven given the talent they have, but have three losses – yet they’re undefeated in league play at 2-0, with wins over Phillipsburg (2-6) and Franklin (2-3). Out of conference losses have come to state No. 1 Camden, Elizabeth and Hudson Catholic. The Argos are a tricky one, for sure; it’s hard to seed any tournament when a team has only played two games against their peers. They have one more game this week before the cutoff, Immaculata (5-3) on Tuesday.
- Ridge (6-2) – The Red Devils dropped out of the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten last week, but they’re the next best option down the list in the Skyland Conference. They should edge out Immaculata for the final spot, though the two have similar records. But Ridge has beaten them twice, including Saturday afternoon. However, should the Spartans beat Rutgers Prep on Tuesday, look for some movement here in the bottom two.
Skyland Girls’ Top 8 Pod:
- Rutgers Prep (7-0) – You know Rutgers Prep is good. Really good. No. 23 in the nation good. (How have they gone unbeaten and dropped seven spots since the preseason? Whatever!) But have you seen them play? Did you see them put on a defensive, ball pressure clinic against No. 2 Franklin Saturday afternoon. (Click here for our postgame coverage.) Probably not, thanks to COVID, but man they were impressive. They’re the odds on favorite to win the whole damned thing, let alone get the top seed.
- Gill St. Bernard’s (6-0) – Unfortunately, Franklin gets Gill on Tuesday – at least it’s at home – the day before the seeding committee puts this whole thing together. But Gill has been solid, too. Too bad we don’t get to see them play Rutgers Prep this year. Then again, maybe we will. Barring any more snow or COVID cancellations, the Knights should roll into the postseason at 9-0 or better.
- Mount St. Mary (8-0) – I’m still not sure if these are projections, or my version of the seeding. The Skyland postseason has never been done before, although much of the same seeding principles remain. But I’m a big believer in undefeated teams being rewarded. Regardless of school size or division, to maintain the focus says a lot. That said, I go with Mary’s here, with a perfect record. You play the schedule you’re handed, and when you beat them all, you deserve the credit.
- Bound Brook (6-1) – The Crusaders have one blemish, a loss to undefeated Mount St. Mary’s, which is why the Lions are ahead of them here. You can’t argue with that. But you also can’t argue with how good Bound Brook is. They should be winning their sixth straight sectional championship this year, but they won’t get a crack at it. Though they’re tied in the division behind Belvidere, they did dismantle the County Seaters in what will have been their only matchup this year, 78-34 on Feb. 6th.
- Ridge (5-4) – The Red Devils sandwiched between Rutgers Prep and Phillipsburg in the Division. They split with the Stateliners (but the win was more recent) and have losses to the Argonauts, plus Watchung Hills, Gill St. Bernard’s and Rutgers Prep, all “quality losses.”
- Voorhees (6-2) – The Vikings are red hot at the right time, having won four in a row after splitting their first four. The Voos have done it with defense, holding four teams under 40 points this year, allowing 37, 30, 30 and 27 on their recent streak. They’re deserving of being in the top eight.
- Franklin (3-2) – The Warriors should be in the top eight, as they’re one of the better teams in the county; they just don’t look elite this year. Part of that is being hampered by COVID, sure; they played one game before having to pause all team-related activities. They did not look good against Rutgers Prep, and the Hillsborough loss was a head-scratcher, no disrespect to the Raiders. Franklin – at least the Franklin on the last four seasons, with two TOC titles to their credit – doesn’t lose those types of games. They could make a big statement Tuesday against Gill, though, as mentioned earlier.
- Hunterdon Central (6-2) – Their only losses are to Gill St. Bernard’s and Franklin, and the jury is still out on Franklin. Still, the Warriors get the nod over the Red Devils due to their head-to-head: Audrey Taylor’s squad beat them by six – just last Wednesday. They’re the last team in, for now. Central has Watchung Hills, a team they beat by eight earlier this season – on Tuesday, but I’m not sure a win there moves the needle much.