No conference has captured the unpredictable nature of this college basketball season quite like the ACC. The league is a talent-laden package of historically relevant programs that command a high level of national attention on an annual basis.
Universities and fans refuse to lower expectations in the ACC, even if there's a legitimate reason to expect a challenging season. Surprises are always part of the equation.
Conference front-runner Miami stunned many by stealing the spotlight, and college hoops enthusiasts across the country should circle the Hurricanes' March 2 matchup at Duke on their calender.
While the Blue Devils and 'Canes can consider themselves among the ACC elite and potential national title contenders, the same can't be said for the majority of conference members. Some championship dreams were derailed early, while others are unraveling during the final push toward postseason play.
Vital inefficiencies threaten to sink various ACC teams for a myriad of reasons. We shine the spotlight on the conference's 10 most disappointing developments during the 2012-13 campaign, ranking them by virtue of unexpectedness and severity.
The Florida State frontcourt asserted itself as a physical, relentless group during an unforgettable 2012 run to the team's first ACC title. The Seminoles ranked third in conference rebounding last season, led by tenacious center Bernard James.
James, now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, racked up just over eight rebound per game. His departure, combined with the loss of senior center Xavier Gibson, hit Florida State hard.
The Seminoles are suddenly the ACC's worst team when it comes to pulling down boards. FSU vets Terrance Shannon and Okaro White are steady, but not superior, inside.
A lack of rebounds leads to second-chance opportunities for the opponent, along with one-and-done offensive possessions. That's a recipe for disaster in any conference and a major factor in Florida State's fall from conference prominence.
The Hokies hit 37 percent of their three-point field goal attempts last winter, trailing only Duke in conference rankings. A much different scenario has played out this season.
Virginia Tech's percentage continues to plummet, and the Hokies have paid a price. The team holds down last place in the ACC standings, currently sitting at 3-11 in conference play.
Forward Jarell Eddie (pictured) personifies the squad's struggles from outside. The 6'7" North Carolina native led the ACC in three-point shooting as a sophomore last season when he converted 44 percent of his shot attempts.
Despite hoisting up more threes than ever as a junior (five attempts per game), Eddie's conversion rate is down to 33 percent. A Hokies team that often depends on the deep ball is coming up empty too frequently these days.
The Raleigh product is wilting when it matters most. Purvis is averaging just five points per game in the Wolfpack's past seven contests. NC State has struggled during his slump, going 3-4 and losing ground in the ACC standings.
The 6'3" guard has shot better than 40 percent in a game only once since Jan. 22. His midseason lull has suddenly turned into a major drought, and you have to wonder if he'll be able to break through the "freshman wall."
Unless Purvis picks things up and recovers from what is probably the least impressive span of his basketball career, the Wolfpack will have trouble advancing in postseason play.
A versatile tandem of veteran guards led the Tigers in scoring and leadership last season. Unfortunately for Clemson coach Brad Brownell, both were seniors.
Andre Young and Tanner Smith, two of the last remaining recruits from the Oliver Purnell era, moved on and left a substantial hole in the Tigers lineup. Clemson's leading backcourt scorer can be found by scrolling all the way down to the fourth slot on team scoring list.
Freshman Jordan Roper is pouring in close to eight points per contest on 42 percent shooting. The 5'11" combo guard has been impressive in spurts but isn't quite ready for an expansive role that would require him to take over the offensive load.
Fellow freshman Adonis Filer receives steady minutes but is struggling offensively. The 6'2" Chicago product is shooting just 37 percent from the floor and 34 percent from three-point territory.
Filer and Roper could eventually become a quality veteran duo themselves, but this gap in guard experience is crippling Clemson.
The Wolfpack collected 26-of-53 first-place votes in the ACC preseason poll, edging Duke out for top honors. Preseason accolades or not, North Carolina State has yet to play like a title worthy team because of its issues away from home.
The squad has suffered six road losses, including three to ranked opponents. The Wolfpack are 1-5 in recent road matchups, raising questions about the team's mental makeup.
The last two defeats (at North Carolina and Duke) came courtesy of double-digit deficits. NC State is fighting to improve its seeding in the ACC and NCAA tourneys, so some road success during this final stretch would do wonders.
NC State wraps up the regular season at Florida State.
This has been a borderline "down year" in Chapel Hill, judging by the standards established throughout Roy Williams' 10-season tenure with the Tar Heels. UNC (19-8, 9-5 in ACC) takes care of business against teams it's supposed to beat and should be in line for a fairly high seed in the NCAA tournament.
But the Tar Heels have yet to prove capable of overcoming the nation's most complete squads. That tends to be a big problem once March Madness rolls around.
North Carolina was dismantled at Indiana, beaten by Butler and lost by 18 at Texas. The Tar Heels are 1-4 against ranked opponents.
The regular-season finale presents UNC with a chance to reverse the trend against a hated rival. North Carolina hosts Duke, currently ranked third in the nation, on March 9.
The mess in Winston-Salem is getting to the point of no return for embattled Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik. He took over for Dino Gaudio after the Demon Deacons reached two straight NCAA tourneys.
Wake Forest is currently 12-14 (5-9 in ACC) and, aside from a few young prospects, it's hard to identify positive momentum mounting within the program. The team has lost eight of 11 contests, spiraling toward the conference basement once again.
The Deacs defeated ACC powerhouse Miami on Saturday, but don't let that distract you from the mounting evidence against Bzdelik. Since he took over in 2010, Wake Forest is 33-56 with a pathetic 10-37 record against conference opponents.
It all adds up to the worst three-year stretch at Wake Forest in 25 years.
Now we'll wait to see if athletic director Ron Wellman stands by his recent comments. He voiced his support for Bzdelik last month.
"We'll sacrifice wins if need be for the long-term success of the program," Wellman told the Charlotte Observer on Jan. 25. "And some of those decisions were really difficult decisions, but there was never any thought the last couple of years with doing anything different because he was following the plan."
You buying that approach, Wake Forest fans?
The Cavaliers probably still can't believe what happened on Dec. 22 at the Governor's Holiday Hoops Classic in Richmond. Old Dominion snapped a nine-game losing streak at the expense of in-state rival Virginia.
A 63-61 loss would've been easier to accept if the Monarchs maintained momentum and went on to a strong season. Instead, Old Dominion is currently 4-24 overall and 2-14 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
This loss severely effects Virginia's position in computer rankings and ultimately damages a solid NCAA tourney resume.
Michigan topped NC State in a November showdown.
Virginia suffered the worst defeat outside of ACC competition, but it's been a rough winter beyond the friendly confines of conference competition for many teams. A stunning series of losses to mid-major programs defined the season's early stages.
Florida State fell to South Alabama, Virginia lost a trio of games to CAA opponents (George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion), mighty Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast, a squad you may have never heard of until now.
ACC elites haven't fared well when facing formidable NCAA tournament contenders from other leagues.
Duke has been an exception in this department. The Blue Devils beat Ohio State and Louisville in November.
Florida State floored plenty of prognosticators last season. The Seminoles surged to an unexpected ACC tournament title, a first for the program in 21 seasons as a league member.
The impressive regular season and ACC tourney journey heightened expectations in Tallahassee. Even a second-round exit at the hands of Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament didn't do much to quell excitement surrounding the Seminoles prior to this season.
The team placed fourth in the ACC preseason poll. Florida State received six first-place votes, trailing only NC State and Duke in that department.
It didn't take long for Leonard Hamilton's team to raise eyebrows with inconsistent early performances. The Seminoles dropped four games (to Minnesota, Mercer, Florida and Auburn) before conference play commenced.
Florida State matched its 2011-12 conference loss total (four) in a hurry and is currently 6-8 in ACC action. The Seminoles have lost four of five games, including Sunday's critical loss at lowly Virginia Tech (3-11 in conference).
It appears Florida State is destined for the NIT after four straight trips to the NCAA tournament.