Manley's Blog

State Tournament Forecast

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 2, 2009

Central Jersey IV

The CJ IV bracket is a place to expect the unexpected. There are always some wacky results based on the seeding, so the first step to getting a grasp on this bracket is to throw the seeds out the window. You can do that just within the Shore Conference, because the third seed in the bracket (Marlboro) is the Shore Conference champ and has been ranked ahead of TR North all year, but it’s North that earned the top seed. While the Mariners will have a great chance to win the bracket, most people who know both teams, would say Marlboro is the better team by a slight margin.

With all that said, the top three seeds in the bracket – TR North, Rancocas Valley and Marlboro – are for real and the fourth seed is the defending sectional champ, even though North Brunswick has been somewhat inconsistent. There are some potential Cinderellas in there, especially this Howell team and the GMC champs at South Brunswick. Howell played well against CBA and Marlboro last week and should give Rancocas Valley a good game Tuesday. Should they upset the Red Devils, they will likely be playing Freehold Township, a team the Rebels beat twice in two tries this season. South Brunswick plays a beatable WWPS team and could play North Brunswick in a rematch of the GMC final in the CJ IV quarterfinals.

Speaking of Freehold Township, the Patriots are the scariest match-up for a Marlboro team that looks as if it is destined to run through this bracket. Freehold Township handled Marlboro rather easily in a 2-1 overtime win in the last meeting between the two teams and appeared to be a bad match-up for the Mustangs. I’m of the belief that Marlboro is playing far better than it was during that second meeting and they’ll be able to control play a little better if the Pats come knocking again.

Look for Jackson to give North Brunswick a fight in the first round and for Montgomery to be a sleeper in the bracket, which might be bad news for Colts Neck and TR North. I expect Colts Neck to play well, because they have played well in the last two games, but sometimes you get a bad draw. If Colts Neck gets to the sectional semifinal, they will have absolutely earned it.

Picking the Champ: Marlboro over North Brunswick. TR North’s struggles to finish goals may come around to bite them and North Brunswick is a well-coached program that always plays well in the state tourny. But how can you pick against Marlboro right now?

CJ III

The CVC has won the past three titles and sixth-seeded West Windsor North is the two-time defending champion and looks like a semifinal shoo-in with their draw. Princeton is the top-seed, and while their draw is not as easy as North’s, they have been the best team in Mercer County.

This is a Shore Conference blog though, so let’s talk about the Shore’s chances in the bracket. Freehold will have to go through either Ocean or Monmouth again, which will be a challenge, given the old adage about beating a team three times. After that, they will either have to go through Hightstown or the defending champs just to get to the final. It’ll be intersting to see how Freehold starts this tournament after giving up 10 goals in its last two games heading in.

With that said, I think Freehold’s draw is no easier than that of Wall, who has to go through Princeton or Holmdel. The latter of the two is a scary No. 8 seed and will be a tough team to handle for anyone in Group III. I think Princeton will hold them off because Princeton does not allow goals, but they also don’t score many, so it may come down to who blinks first in a 1-0 game or even a pk game after a scoreless 100. Should be a good game on Friday, although both still have to make it official with first-round wins. Let’s not forget that Neptune stunned Princeton two years ago as a No. 8 seed, so while they are heavy underdogs, John Knight has seen enough of Princeton in the last three years to know what they’re all about.

Wall is the Shore Conference team playing the best soccer going into the tournament and it’s my belief that they’ll play Princeton in the semis, while WWPN will play Freehold in the other, although I’m tempted to pick a very dangerous Monmouth team to end up in the sectional final. The winner of the Ocean-Monmouth game has a real shot at a surprising run to the final.

Picking the Champ: Wall over WWPN. Rematch of last year’s final goes to the Crimson Knights this time around.

CJ II

Raritan, Manasquan and Shore each have draws that suggest they will all be among the final four of this bracket. That means two wins by No. 2 Delran will set up a chalk semifinal, and that’s where it gets interesting. Shore beat Raritan during the preseason (almost irrelevant) and played Marlboro closer than Raritan did in the SCT (not as irrelevant), so I wouldn’t put a third straight trip to the sectional final past Shore whatsoever. Delran is a tough team to read, because they tied for a state title as a No. 4 seed in their section and while they have had a better regular season this year, I think they played above their heads a little last year.

To me, Manasquan is this year’s Delran. They don’t wow you with anything they do, but they are a tough defensive team, they play to their strengths and they have a dangerous forward. While Raritan and Shore beat each other up in one semi, I think Manasquan will sneak past Delran and prepare for a sectional title.

Picking the Champ: Manasquan over Raritan. Raritan is the most impressive team in the bracket when they are on, but Manasquan has been very tough on them, tough enough to play them even until they catch a break in OT or in penalty kicks. And by the way, the last time Raritan played Manasquan in a playoff game, Raritan won in pks to advance to the sectional final.

South Jersey IV

Really tough to get a read on this bracket, because it’s hard to get a read on Toms River East. They are tough and well-coached, but they are very young. Maybe the Raiders knock off Absegami, but playing Eastern in the next round will be a tough one, but then again, it will be just as tough for Eastern to hold off a pretty good No. 10 seed should it come to that.

Toms River South is the best chance for a Shore Conference team to get to the final and I think they will be in the semis at the very least. They have played much better in the back over the course of the last couple of weeks and they have as much talent in the front six or seven as most teams. Southern has a road through the bottom half of the bracket and I’ll admit that I’d be a little surprised to see them survive round one. However, if they can somehow win two games, Clearview seems like a beatable No. 1, so Southern could put two good games together and find themselves in a position to play for a sectional title. I think that’s a too little mind-blowing to actually happen, but we should all be done counting out Southern by now.

Picking the Champ: Lenape over Cherry Hill West.

SJ III

The two best Shore Conference teams in SJ III are on the same side of the bracket and could square off in the quarters. Sorry Central and Manchester, but I’m talking about Lacey and Point Boro. Something tells me that Lacey is starting to get its swagger back and they’ll be in the semis against Seneca, at which point I’m not sure what to think about their chances. I think I’ve been a proponent of Lacey if anything, so I guess I’m leaning toward the Lions as a dangerous team in a bracket that has not been kind to Shore Conference teams.

Like I said in an early look at the bracket, it’s easy to react to match-ups and say Brick will beat Central in a 1-vs.-16 game, but I don’t think that will happen. Brick is good enough to reach the sectional final when you consider the draw they have and the level of competition they play, but the same can be said for No. 11 Moorestown, the defending champ in this section.

Manchester is the team to watch here. Should they get by Hammonton, I think they’ll put a good game together against Central or Brick and advance to the semis. The three-game losing streak, including the 5-0 loss to TR South, and two losses to Central make it easy to dismiss the Hawks, but Manchester is definitely a sleeper in this bracket. While the Shore has a quiet recent history in this bracket, something tells me that a Shore team will be playing for a sectional title, but since I don’t know which one, I’ll refrain from picking it and let the bracket tell me.

Picking the Champ: Seneca over Timber Creek.

South Non-Public A

CBA should win the bracket, although there are a number of worthy opponents who have played CBA close in years past. This is a really good Colts team and if they can shake off a very tough loss to  Marlboro in the SCT final, they should be starting a three-game winning streak on Friday against St. Joe’s.

Picking the Champ: CBA over St. Augustine. This would be the fourth year in a row the two teams meet in the playoffs and CBA has won two of the first three, with the Hermits taking last year’s sectional final 1-0. CBA was very close to Augustine last year and the Colts are a better team this season.

South Non-Public B

St. Rose is the top seed and favorite, but Gloucester Catholic moves down into this bracket from NPA and instantly becomes a threat to win the bracket. You can’t count out defending champion Sacred Heart, but if you ask me, the St. Rose-Gloucester Catholic semifinal game will actually be for the sectional title.

Picking the Champ: St. Rose over Sacred Heart. I love the way St. Rose is playing right now, and just watching all the teams, they might be a top 10 team in the Shore right now.

Sectional Quick Picks

Just be warned that I know very little about these teams and this is purely for fun. Feel free to educate me if you have an inside scoop about any of them.

North 1 IV: Kearny over Clifton
North 1 III: Pascack Valley over Ramapo
North 1 II: Newton over Ramsey
North 1 I: Midland Park over Wallington
North 2 IV: Westfield over Ridge
North 2 III: Cranford over Scotch Plains. This, as well as the Cranford-Millburn game, will be a great final.
North 2 II: Madison over Chatham
North 2 I: Harrison over High Tech
CJ I: South River over Bound Brook
SJ II: West Deptford over Haddon Twp.
SJ I: Salem over New Egypt
North NPA: Pingry over Seton Hall Prep
North NPB: Montclair Kimberly over Gill St. Bernards

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One Response

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  1. CH said, on November 3, 2009 at 2:24 am

    YEAHHHH goin with Marlboro now baby! Good pick! Always pick us remember that! LETS GO MUSTANGS!!!


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