Before the season some wondered if North Carolina could go through its ACC schedule without a loss, a feat accomplished only once since the league went to a 16-game regular season. That was by Duke in 1999.
|v North Carolina|
|* Majority of members.|
The fantasy of perfection ended in the Tar Heels' first conference outing of 2009, a home loss to Boston College. Turns out the Eagles are better than we thought they'd be, and the Heels not quite as good, especially without defensive stopper Marcus Ginyard.
UNC still leads the conference race at 10-3, with Duke in hot pursuit. Whoever wins, this will be only the second time in five years the first place finisher had three or more losses. Since FSU joined the league in 1992, necessitating a longer ACC schedule, half the teams that finished atop the standings did so despite dropping three or more games.
There's strong evidence that, in years where the defeats suffered by the top ACC team are more numerous, so are the NCAA bids awarded to league members. The majority of ACC squads got NCAA bids in nine of the past 17 seasons; in six of those years the first-place finisher had three or more losses.
That bodes well for the conference's NCAA representation next month.
Examining the trend in regular-season losses by the ACC leader, and the concomitant rise and fall of NCAA bids, it appears the league's standing suffered while Duke dominated from 1998 through 2000 and has not quite recovered.