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What If The Season Ended Today?: TNation Revisits the ACC Basketball Standings

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About a month ago, the ACC Basketball standings were a complete surprise. Virginia was the number one team in the conference, followed by Duke, Clemson and Maryland. In the last month, Virginia has fallen hard in the standings. Clemson has regressed to the mean while Duke and Maryland continue to charge ahead. In the midst of all the shuffling, Virginia Tech decided to sneak up on everyone.

Last month, we broke down the standings and tried to figure out what would happen if the majority of the ACC finished with an 8-8 record. In that scenario, Florida State was predicted to finish third using the game outcomes predicted by Ken Pomeroy.

It seems that Duke and Maryland have separated themselves from the pack, especially with Maryland's buzzer beater over Georgia Tech on Saturday. But, how does the dust settle for those looking up at Maryland and Duke? With only four or five games left for most teams in the ACC, nothing is guaranteed.

Take a look inside as TNation breaks down the currents standings and tries to explain the what ifs. At least we give it the best shot we can. 

Remember to check out TNation member HarlemNoles' regular feature updating the results and remaining schedule.

Standings Conference Overall
Duke 10 2 - .833 22 4 .846
Maryland 9 3 1 .750 19 7 .731
Virginia Tech 8 3 .727 21 4 .840
Wake Forest 8 5 .615 18 7 .720
Clemson 7 5 3 .583 19 7 .731
Florida State 7 5 3 .583 19 7 .731
Georgia Tech 6 7 .462 18 9 .667
Virginia 5 7 5 .417 14 11 .560
Boston College 4 8 6 .333 13 13 .500
Miami (FL) 3 9 7 .250 17 9 .654
North Carolina 3 9 7 .250 14 13 .519
North Carolina State 3 10 .231 15 13 .536


With only four games remaining, the Seminoles are only three games out of first place. Technically, they could catch the Blue Devils. Is that realistic? Absolutely not. The more important point is that Florida State is only two games behind Maryland. Again, while possible, it's probably not going to happen. However, the Terrapins' remaining games are against some of the better competition in the conference: Clemson, Virginia Tech, Duke (away) and Virginia.

Currently, Ken Pomeroy has the Seminoles finishing with a 10-6 record in conference play. This would be an excellent result for this young team. The 'Noles aren't the only team in the conference predicted to go 10-6. The other teams are Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. If Florida State wins the games as currently predicted by Pomeroy, they would actually finish 11-5. Finishing conference play with a 7-1 record would be a major accomplishment.

For the sake of discussion, let's assume that Maryland finishes 11-5 and are followed by the traffic jam of Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Florida State at 10-6. In that scenario, Florida State could finish as high as third or as low as fifth in the conference. All of those results should be considered a success.

As a reminder, here are the tie breaker rules in the ACC:

  1. When two teams are tied in the standings, regular season head-to-head results are used as the tiebreaker.
  2. If the tied teams played each other twice in the regular season and split their games, then each team's record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular season standings (or in case of a tie for first place, the next highest position in the regular season standings) and then continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.

a. When arriving at another pair of tied teams while comparing records, use each team's record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures), rather than the performance against the individual tied teams.

b. When comparing records against a single team or a group of teams, the higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against a team or group is unequal. (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1; 1-0 is the same as 2-0; 2-0 is the same as 4-0; 2-1 is the same as 4-2; 1-0 is better than 1-1; 0-1 is the same as 0-2; 0-2 is the same as 0-4). If the winning percentage of the tied teams is equal against a team, or a group of tied teams, continue down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.

  1. If three or more teams are tied in the standings, the following procedures will be used:

a. The combined record of conference games between the tied teams involved will be compiled. Ties will be broken, and seedings assigned, based on the winning percentage of the combined conference records. The higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against the team or group is unequal (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1; 1-0 is the same as 2-0; 2-0 is the same as 4-0; 2-1 is the same as 4-2; 1-0 is better than 1-1; 0-1 is the same as 0-2; 0-2 is the same as 0-4).

b. If procedure (a) fails to break the tie, then each tied team's record shall be compared to the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings, continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage by a higher winning percentage.

c. If the tie is broken by (a) or (b) regarding one of more teams, but three or more teams remain tied, then procedures (a) and (b) will be reapplied among those tied teams only.

d. If two teams remain tied, procedures (1) and (2) will be followed.

  1. If there is more than one tie in the standings, and when utilizing the tie-breaking procedures there are a pair of teams tied, a team's record against the combined tied teams (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures) is used, rather than performance against the individual tied teams.

  2. If procedures (2) and/or (3) fail to establish an advantage, a coin flip to break the tie will be conducted by the commissioner after the final regular season game before the Conference Championship.

  3. If a coin flip or draw (for a three or more team tie) is required, the procedure takes place immediately following the conclusion of the last regular season game prior to the Conference Championship. The procedure is administered by the commissioner or a designated assistant. This session is open to the media and to athletics department representatives from the tied teams.

The rule needed to break the three way tie is noted by the bold text above.

Here are each school's schedule against the 'group' and their projected W-L using the Pomeroy Predictions and their winning percentage. Actual results are noted as well:

Virginia Tech (1-1, 0.500): Florida State (Loss), Wake Forest (VTech won on Februrary 16th 87-83)

Florida State (2-0, 1.000): Virginia Tech (FSU won 63-58 on January 16th), Wake Forest (Home on February 28th)

Wake Forest (0-2, .000): Virginia Tech (Loss, See above), Florida State (Predicted loss at FSU on February 28th)

Based on our interpretation of the guidelines, Florida State would finish third in the ACC, ahead of Virginia Tech and then Wake Forest. This demonstrates how important that win against the Hokies was in mid January. At the time, the Seminoles had a two game losing streak and could have easily dropped that game as the looked ahead to a rematch with Georgia Tech. This also highlights how important the upcoming game with Wake Forest is going to be. Florida State must win that game in order to get the results noted above. If they lose that game, then all three teams are still tied. In that situation, the tie breaker would be determined by each of the school's record against Duke. So far, Wake and FSU have lost the Blue Devils. Virginia Tech plays Duke in their next game and is predicted to lose badly. Since that doesn't determine the tie break, it then goes to each teams' record against Maryland, which is bad new for Seminoles fans. Wake already beat them and Virginia Tech is predicted to do so, dropping Florida State to fifth in that scenario.

To make it more interesting, let's include Clemson in the discussion. They are only predicted to finish with an 8-8 record by Ken Pomeroy. They finish the season with games at Maryland, at Florida State, home against Georgia Tech and finish the year at Wake Forest. That is an incredibly difficult schedule. It would take a lot for the Tigers to go 3-1 to finish the year, but it's possible.

Virginia Tech (2-1, 0.666): Florida State (Loss), Wake Forest (VTech won on Februrary 16th 87-83), Clemson (Won February 6th, 70-59)

Florida State (3-1, 0.750): Virginia Tech (FSU won 63-58 on January 16th), Wake Forest (Home on February 28th), Clemson x 2 (Lost on February 10th 77-67, predicted to win on February 28th)

Wake Forest (1-2, 0.333): Virginia Tech (Loss, See above), Florida State (Predicted loss at FSU on February 28th), Clemson (Predicted to win on March 7th)

Clemson (1-3, 0.250): Virginia Tech (Loss, see above), Florida State x 2 (See above), Wake Forest (See above)

Again, in this situation, Florida State would still finish third in the conference. The key point is if they can win against Wake Forest and Clemson. A loss to Clemson, would put them in a tie with Clemson, who would then hold the tie breaker based on the head to head record. But, if Florida State beats Wake and loses to Clemson, they would still finish fifth. If they beat Clemson and lose to Wake they would also be fifth. If they lose to Clemson and Wake, they would be sixth. Therefore, if this situation plays out, with the four teams above tied at 10-6, the Seminoles could finish as high as third, but are mot likely to finish fifth. They currently have about a 50% chance to win those two games, so hang on folks this could be a wild ride to the finish.

If we assume that the Noles finish as predicted above with a 10-6 record and wins over Clemson and Wake, this is how the conference standings would be if the season ended today. (Again, there are a lot of 'ifs' in here, so please don't attack the article saying this isn't possible. This is simply for fun and to discuss the possibilities):

1. Duke

2. Maryland

3. Florida State

4. Virginia Tech

5. Wake Forest

6. Clemson

7. Georgia Tech

8. Virginia

9. Boston College

10. North Carolina

11. Miami

12. North Carolina State

The next question then, is what happens if the ACC tournament started today:

Day 1:

Game 1: University of Virginia (#8) vs. Boston College(#9)

Game 2: Wake Forest (#5) vs. NC State (#12)

Game 3: Georgia Tech (#7) vs. North Carolina (#10)

Game 4: Clemson (#6) vs Miami (#11)


Day 2:

Game 1: Duke (#1) vs UVA/BC Winner

Game 2: Virginia Tech (#4) vs. Wake/NC State Winner

Game 3: Maryland (#2) vs GTech/UNC Winner

Game 4: Florida State (#3) vs Clemson/Miami winner

Based on the information above, you should be able to plug in the various scenarios into the tournament schedule. The winners of the games on day one play in the same numbered game on day two. Another match-up with Clemson would be difficult and the upcoming game with the Tigers will be of utmost importance for the Seminoles to get into the match ups listed above. However, recall that the Seminoles only lost by ten points at Littlejohn Stadium on a night they shot 37% from the floor. Additionally, the Florida State defense that has played the last two games is very different than the one that Clemson saw in their victory on February 10th.

The team that can help the Seminoles the most at this point is Maryland. Maryland plays Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virgina Tech, Duke and Virginia. While it would be great to reel the Terrapins in, it isn't going to heappen. The better Maryland looks, the better the Seminoles look. It would also help if NC State could show more signs of life and knock off Virginia Tech just like they took care of business against Wake Forest.

The most important thing, of course is that the Seminoles, continue to take care of business. They really have the opportunity to control their own destiny to getting a high seed in the ACC tournament. Florida States' remaining games are all winable, particularly with the defense that has held its last two opponents to 50 points or less. In fact, the Noles have only allowed their opponents to score 70 points or more seven times this season. They have held their opponents to under 60 points thirteen times. The defense currently ranks 2nd in the nation and the Noles have moved up to the 16th spot in the Pomeroy rankings. Last year, every team in the top 16 of the Pomeroy rankings made it to the NCAA tournament.


Florida State's Michael Snaer (21) drives past Boston College's Cortney Dunn, left rear, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, in Boston. Florida State won 61-57.


Photo from here.