Several statistical measures are in flux this season as the ACC went from 16 to 18 games, an adjustment made in anticipation of next year's expansion.
Take, for instance, a rule of thumb regarding the likely number of wins necessary to finish first in the conference during the regular season.
Any team can of course make the point moot by going through the league schedule without a blemish, as Miami has done in winning its first nine ACC games. The Hurricanes' high rate of success could delay for at least a year the establishment of a readily attainable target number of victories for teams that aspire to finish first.
Return engagements against the likes of North Carolina, Florida State, and Duke make it unlikely Miami will survive the ACC season without a loss, however. The longer league schedule allows more round-robin competition; the second time around opposing coaches are apt to have your team's and players' tendencies better scouted.
At least the basketball world in general is paying attention to a veteran-laden squad that was not ranked in preseason but is already 18-3. (That's the same record Virginia had last year at this time, rising to 15th in the Associated Press poll before a plague of injuries precipitated a 4-7 finish.)
In eight previous ACC seasons, the 'Canes never won more than nine conference contests. That was last year, the first at Coral Gables for Jim Larranaga, once an assistant at Virginia. The '12 squad finished 9-7 and tied for third place in the ACC.
But we're talking more broadly here than the fate of one team or one program.
Precedent tells us squads were almost certainly eliminated from the ACC race if they lost five games. Only twice have the first-place finishers accumulated five defeats in league play - in 1985 in an eight-team league and in 2007 when the membership had grown to a dozen.
Five other times, first place was secured despite four ACC losses, most recently in 1997.
More germane, given this year's jump to 18 games, every first place team in the ACC's first 59 years won at least two-thirds of the time except the squads that finished tied for first in 1985.
Based on that two-third yardstick, a team playing 18 ACC games could lose six times and still have a shot at finishing atop the standings.
That should lend some measure of reassurance to, say, N.C. State, the popular preseason pick to win the league. The Wolfpack is now 5-5 in conference play after its defeat at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday night. They're still not out of the race. Not technically, anyway.
|WHO'S IN FIRST
Most Losses By First-Place ACC Finishers, All-Time
|Year||Losses||Record||Win %||First Place Finish|
|1985||5||9-5||.643||Georgia Tech, UNC, NC State|
|1995||4||12-4||.750||Wake, UNC, Maryland, Virginia|