It’s that time of year again! What has proven to be an unpredictable regular season in the GMC is about to culminate in what appears to be the most wide open GMC Tournament in recent memory. On Thursday morning in Spotswood, the seeding committee will meet to order every team in the county 1-31, and here is how I think it will go down.

Before we begin, let’s once again go over the procedure that the seeding committee will follow at Friday’s meeting. The four divisions will be listed in the order which they finished, as shown in the final standings below.

1 St. Joseph 13-1
2 South Brunswick 12-2
3 Perth Amboy 8-6
4 East Brunswick 7-7
5 Monroe 6-8
T-6 Piscataway 4-10
T-6 Old Bridge 4-10
8 J.P. Stevens 2-12

T-1 New Brunswick 10-2
T-1 Edison 10-2
3 Colonia 9-3
4 North Brunswick 6-6
T-5 Kennedy 3-9
T-5 Sayreville 3-9
7 Woodbridge 1-11

1 St. Thomas Aquinas 12-0
2 Carteret 10-2
T-3 South Plainfield 6-6
T-3 Spotswood 6-6
5 Middlesex 5-7
6 Metuchen 3-9
7 South River 0-12

1 Dunellen 14-1
2 Wardlaw 13-2
T-3 Timothy Christian 11-4
T-3 Perth Amboy Tech 11-4
5 East Brunswick Tech 6-9
T-6 Piscataway Tech 4-11
T-6 Calvary Christian 4-11
T-6 South Amboy 4-11
9 Highland Park 1-15

To start, the division winners will go on the board as the eligible teams to be selected. As a team is seeded and goes off the board, the next highest placed team from that division replaces the departed team to be eligible for selection. When the meeting starts, the teams eligible for selection will be:

St. Joseph
New Brunswick
St. Thomas Aquinas

Only those teams can be selected first. When St. Joseph goes off the board first as the #1 seed, they will be replaced by South Brunswick on the board as the newest team eligible to be selected, and the new choices for the #2 seed will look like this.

South Brunswick
New Brunswick
St. Thomas Aquinas

And so on and so forth. All four division winners must be seeded in the top eight, but that expands to the top nine in the case of a tie for first in any division, which we just so happen to have this year. Without further ado, let’s begin!

1. St. Joseph

The Falcons will almost certainly find themselves as the top seed once again after a year’s absence, as they look for their 5th straight title and their 10th in 11 years. But they are not without questions going into the GMCT, as they have put together a number of lackluster performances in the past three weeks, leading up to their 82-67 defeat to South Brunswick on February 8. Fortunately for first year coach Jan Cocozziello, they always seem to pull it together come playoff time, and they have more than earned this #1 seed, which was essentially locked in on January 5, when they defeated my #2 seed 70-65 at Kean.

2. St. Thomas Aquinas

Before I opine about the Trojan’s season, I first have to address an issue that Greg Machos wrote about earlier in the week: The forfeit.

A bit of context first: On January 18, the Trojans obliterated Perth Amboy 87-41, in what was their fifth game they played that week. This is illegal under state rules, forcing STA to forfeit the game to the Panthers. This is not the first forfeit I have seen in GMC sports, most notably one that I was a part of in baseball as a player in my senior year at J.P. Stevens (https://www.nj.com/highschoolsports/article/middlesex-baseball-south-brunswick-forfeits-game-to-jp-stevens/). However, this is the first forfeit I have seen in basketball, and it raises questions as to how the committee should handle it. I believe it should not be held against the Trojans, for as some forfeits which involve playing an ineligible player directly change the outcome of a game or season, this was largely a procedural error, which really was one that you’d think  would have given the Trojans a disadvantage in the game in question.

Even if the forfeit is counted against the Trojan’s record, I still believe they have done enough to garner the #2 seed. Bob Turco’s team is without question the most talented team in the GMC, with perhaps its best player in Quadry Adams. It still doesn’t feel as if they have completely gelled as a team yet, but there is no question that they have more than enough to take home their first title since 1992. Two wins over my #3 team give it more than enough resume points to place it at #2.

3. Carteret

Several people involved in GMC basketball have expressed surprise to me upon throughout the year upon hearing that Carteret is our #3 team. The Ramblers are not a particularly deep team, they don’t exactly look imposing from the naked eye, and they haven’t beaten the same number of quality teams in the county as those rated below have. But do you know who is not surprised at this seeding? Anybody who has played the Ramblers this year.

The word to describe Mugsy White’s team is relentless. They are as intense and driven as they are cohesive as a unit, and they are led by the county’s breakout player in Starrell Hearns. The first signs of success were when they reached the championship round of the Matawan holiday tournament over Edison and Old Bridge, and defeated one of the state’s best teams in Holmdel, who beat Edison by 28 points. They suffered a 2OT loss to Union in the finals, and has won every game since, save for two losses to STA by 5 and 4 points respectively. They beat Colonia by 14 points, and knocked off North Brunswick on the road by 2 without Starrell Hearns. They have passed the eye test with more than flying colors, and while some would be shocked if they went all the way in the GMCT, I wouldn’t be. This is an easy call at #3.

4. New Brunswick

A lot of teams know how to play, but the Zebras know how to win. They have had their backs against the wall on multiple occasions this year with seemingly no chance to win, and nearly every time Samir Sanu’s team has come through. Led by surefire first team All-County selections Ayhan Brown-Miller and Tahjay Moore, this will be their best seed since 2012, but there is considerable debate over this and the above seed. South Brunswick’s recent win over St. Joseph puts them in the conversation, along with Edison, with whom New Brunswick shared the division title. The Zebras beat South Brunswick 51-50 back on December 28, and split with both Edison and Colonia. Edison’s loss to Monroe should put them out of the running here, and South Brunswick’s loss on February 1 to Perth Amboy hurts as well. While the Vikings’ win over Joes is significant, and while head to head shouldn’t be everything in a seeding, New Brunswick has done enough to keep pace with South Brunswick to where the head to head result should make the difference. With transfers Will Britton and Jayvon Taylor both eligible, the Zebras are going to be a complete team in the GMCT for the first time all year. They are a title contender.

5. South Brunswick

The Vikings’ win over St. Joseph on February 8 was the cherry on top of a tremendous season, with only the loss to Perth Amboy standing between it and a share of the Red Division title. Devin Strickland and Justin Carbone will surely both be named to every All-County team, and they come in as perhaps the county’s best offensive team, having topped 90 points on four different occasions. With the way the Vikings are able to score the ball, they will be a difficult matchup for any team. If these seeds hold up, a QF rematch with New Brunswick would be a colossal affair.

6. Edison

Not enough can be said about the season the Eagles have had this year, as they have won its first division crown in school history. Charlie Mohr’s team, much like Carteret, is relentless, with one of the county’s best defensive records, and the fiery Emmanuel Davila leading the charge as one of the county’s most talented guards. Their victories over New Brunswick, Colonia, and North Brunswick have shown them worthy of this lofty slot in the seeding. A potential QF matchup with Carteret would not be for the faint of heart.

7. Colonia

The Patriots began the year 11-0, and seemed to be riding high until dropping four out of five games in late January, including a devastating loss to Sayreville. They have since bounced back with five straight victories, including a win over New Brunswick on February 8 that silenced any doubts about the quality of Jose Rodriguez’s team. That along with their win over Edison as well as their two over North Brunswick puts them ahead of my #8 team. The last time Colonia was the 7 seed? 2018, when Brandon Hall led the Patriots to within a whisker of the GMC title.

8. Perth Amboy

The Panthers’ win over South Brunswick on February 1 capped off their surprise run to a 3rd place finish in the Red, and will surely garner them their best seed since 2015. Two losses to Monroe do stick out, with the win over South Brunswick being the only thing separating the Panthers from my #10 team.

9. Dunellen

The Destroyers will likely the biggest losers of the seeding meeting by far, as the tie atop the White Division standings will require the division winners to be seeded in the top nine, rather than the top eight. This will probably cost Tyje Kelton and company a home game in the first round, and force them to play a preliminary round game against either the 24 or 25 seed prior. This does not take away from a historic season for the Destroyers, who may find greater success as the #1 seed in the North 2 Group 1 tournament. They should not be counted out against anyone they face.

10. North Brunswick

The Raiders are good enough to be a top five team. They sport an All-County caliber guard in Jabri Fitzpatrick, a highly skilled big man in Donovan Crawford, a pure scorer in Corey Smith, and a newly eligible transfer in Omari Fleming among other pieces, and have looked as good as any team in the White Division this year. The problem for Ed Breheney’s team is this: No team has been more unlucky this year. The Raiders fell in 2OT to New Brunswick on January 7 in the most thrilling game perhaps in the history of my GMC Hoops GOTW broadcasts, and again in OT on the 30th to the same Zebras. They went down to the wire against South Brunswick, Edison, Carteret, and Colonia just this past Tuesday in OT, and lost every game. They have a win over East Brunswick, and they don’t have a single bad loss this year. Nobody wants to see this team in the first round.

11. East Brunswick
12. Monroe

The Monroe Falcons have two victories over Perth Amboy, and a huge 16 point win over Edison on January 16, but the Bears’ two victories over the Falcons sent them into fourth place, which is Mark Motusesky’s best finish in the Red since 2016. Monroe star Andrew Turco, the state’s leading three point scorer and third leading overall scorer, is currently just 85 points away from 1000.

This is where things will become a lot less clear. Right now, Piscataway and Old Bridge are tied on the board in the Red, Kennedy and Sayreville are tied on the board in the White, South Plainfield and Spotswood are tied on the board in the Blue, and Wardlaw Hartridge stands alone in the Gold. Kennedy’s two wins over Sayreville puts them ahead, while significant differences in point differential should allow for Piscataway and South Plainfield to receive more favorable seeds.

13. South Plainfield

The Tigers have had their best season since 2017, when the received the 13 seed as well. They have come on strong down the stretch, taking a Quadry Adams-less Aquinas team to OT, and falling to Edison by one point, while winning every division game since January 6 not against Carteret or STA. They also picked up wins over Red and White division teams in JP Stevens and Woodbridge, teams that beat Piscataway and Kennedy respectively. While point differential is certainly not everything, the Tigers were 71 points better than Spotswood this year in Blue Division games.

14. Piscataway

The Chiefs only have five wins on the season, but four have come against Red Division teams, including victories over East Brunswick and Monroe. It’s been the close calls that have done Darius Griffin’s team in, as they have dropped games by 3 to St. Joseph, by 5 to South Brunswick, by 2 and 6 to Perth Amboy, by 4 to East Brunswick, and by 9 to New Brunswick. Always tough sledding in the Red Division, and this year is no exception. A first round game with Carteret would be an all out war.

15. Wardlaw Hartridge

It is probably as weird for you to read the name above as it was for me to write it down with the number 15 next to it, but this is no joke. At 16-4, the Rams have had a tremendous season, with its only two GMC losses coming to Dunellen, and a win over Spotswood to boot. They have been almost as dominant as Dunellen in the Gold, and with a young core that should only improve, we could be seeing a new era in North Edison.

16. Spotswood
17. John F. Kennedy
18. Middlesex
19. Old Bridge

The Knights started off the year 1-9 in the Red before winning 3 of their last 4 including victories over East Brunswick and Piscataway. Don’t expect Jim Macomber’s team to be seeded in the high teens for too long.

20. Sayreville

The Bombers pulled off the season’s biggest upset on January 28, when they won at Colonia. Nobody wants to see either the Bombers or the above Knights in the prelim round.

21. Timothy Christian
22. Metuchen
23. J.P. Stevens
24. Woodbridge
25. Perth Amboy Tech
26. East Brunswick Tech
27. Piscataway Tech
28. South River
29. Calvary Christian
30. South Amboy
31. Highland Park

And there you have it! GMC Hoops will have complete coverage of the GMC Tournament, including a broadcast schedule that will be revealed shortly. Good luck to all the teams!