The unbalanced regular season schedule will lead to a more complicated tiebreaker situation for ACC seeds, should teams end up with the same record. The ACC outlines the procedures on this web page, and we'll explain it here with some possible real life examples to clarify.
There are two basic tie situations, a tie between two teams, and a tie between more than two teams.
Between two teams, the first tiebreaker is the head to head record. If Wake Forest and North Carolina end up tied, then Wake Forest will automatically win the tiebreaker, as they have a 1-0 record against North Carolina. (In this case, the unbalanced schedule hurts North Carolina.) If there is a tie between Duke and North Carolina, it depends on the result in eight days. If Duke beats North Carolina, then Duke will have a 2-0 record, and will win the tiebreaker. If North Carolina beats Duke, the record is 1-1. Similarly, if Duke and Wake Forest are tied, their head to head is 1-1.
The second tiebreaker, if the head to head is even, then start at the top of the standings, and take the teams' records against that team, until there is a difference. If you reach a comparison against a team that is tied with a fourth team, then you use the entire set of tied teams. With Duke vs North Carolina, the next highest team is likely to be Wake Forest. Since Duke is 1-1 with Wake Forest, and UNC is 0-1, Duke wins that tiebreaker. If Duke and Wake Forest are tied, Wake's 1-0 against UNC is better than Duke's 1-1, so Wake wins the higher seed.
When making these comparisons, it is entirely based on percentage. 2-1 is the same as 4-2, 0-2 and 0-4 are the same, etc.
When you have more than two teams tied, you take the combined results as a minileague, and seed accordingly. So, if Duke, Wake Forest, and North Carolina ended up in a three way tie, you'd take head to head. If Duke beats North Carolina, Duke will be 3-1, Wake Forest will be 2-1, and North Carolina will be 0-3. If North Carolina beats Duke, Wake is 2-1, Duke is 2-2, and North Carolina is 1-2.
Now, let's suppose Wake and Carolina had played that second game, and North Carolina had won. All three teams would be 2-2, so you'd step down the standings until the record is different. If Wake and UNC were 1-1 against Maryland, and Duke was 0-2, then Duke would be third, and the two-way tiebreaker would apply between Wake and North Carolina.
If you step down the records, and never resolve the tie, a hat draw is made at the ACC offices.
One interesting result of the unbalanced schedule is that it looks like the final tiebreaker is less likely to be applied. You are more likely to reach a tiebreak where one team is 1-0 and the other is 1-1, which resolves the tie. Right now, there are 32,768 possible outcomes from the remaining games. Here at DBR, we've got the above algorithm programmed to give us probabilities, and of those 32,768 outcomes, only 2048 will lead to a hat draw. The most likely is a hat draw between a 5-11 Clemson and a 5-11 Virginia, the least likely is 8-8 NC State and 8-8 Virginia Tech. Under certain circumstances, there could even be a five-way hat draw. NC State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Miami could all be 8-8, and with appropriate ties above and below, they may not be able to resolve their tie. However, this still requires a series of very unlikely results.
Starting Sunday, we will provide better in depth coverage of the probable seeding implications to the results in the last week.