The ACC: The Mysterious Appearance of Parity

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIJanuary 21, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 12:  Mike Scott #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers shoots over Joe Trapani #12 of the Boston College Eagles during day one of the 2009 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament on March 12, 2009 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

At the beginning of the season, most thought the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels would be the cream of the ACC crop. Most also agreed that Georgia Tech would be vastly improved and be in the mix for a top-4 finish, along with teams such as Clemson, Maryland, Wake Forest and Florida State.

Most, however, likely didn't foresee the events that have unfolded to date. 

Did Tony Bennett figure his team would beat Georgia Tech and sit at 3-0 to begin the conference sked? Did the Tar Heels figure they would be 1-3 to start the campaign? Did the Miami Hurricanes, after a 15-0 start, figure they would start 1-4, with their only win over a Wake Forest team that just went to Chapel Hill and  waxed North Carolina?

There are too many significant story lines to tackle to get to the bottom of the ACC mystery. But maybe it isn't so mysterious. North Carolina has had to deal with numerous injuries, the latest to power forwards Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. Larry Drew has not been the answer at the point and without a floor general, the Carolina offense is struggling.

Georgia Tech has been pretty good, although inconsistent at times. They have beaten Carolina, Duke and Clemson though, which says they belong at or near the top of the conference. This team's best basketball should lie ahead.

And Virginia - well, the schedule maker has been relatively kind. Duke, Clemson, North Carolina and Georgia Tech will all face the Cavaliers only once. This is not to say that they haven't achieved anything because they did beat Georgia Tech and they did win at N.C. State, something Duke didn't do. Eight wins in a row has to count for something too.

Duke is also becoming a little enigmatic. After looking so strong earlier in the season, the Blue Devils have struggled on the road. The loss to Georgia Tech is easy to understand but the one to N.C. State not so much. After Carolina's early troubles, it looked as though the Blue Devils would have a clear path to the ACC title, and although it may still be an easy road, Duke's recent road struggles suggest that it won't.

So what does it all mean? It means that there will be many hotly contested games for the next two months that will have an impact on seeding (and at-large selection) for the tourney in March. It means that maybe there isn't an elite team in the ACC this season. It means that the parity that exists in conferences such as the A-10 and the Colonial, to name a couple, may have found its way to the ACC - at least for the time being.