With Monday’s road victory at Notre Dame, Duke has reached the midway point of ACC play, which unfortunately means that the Blue Devils still have nine games remaining against teams in the best conference in college basketball history.

Although there has been some talk about the ACC tying or breaking the Big East’s 2011 record of 11 NCAA Tournament bids come March, the strength of the conference won’t be on full display until the ball tips in the Big Dance. The ACC has sent at least three teams to the Elite Eight in both years since it expanded to 16 teams in 2015 and figures to have a handful of candidates primed to make deep runs again this season.

But perhaps what has differentiated the ACC from the old Big East or some of the other great conferences in recent years has been the depth of the conference from top to bottom.

Almost no one could have foreseen Georgia Tech—coached by the same Josh Pastner who was actually offered $1.255 million to leave Memphis—sitting with a 5-4 record at the midway point, including wins against North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame. The Yellow Jackets may not be a tournament team, but the fact that we’re even discussing them is a miracle of sorts.

Pittsburgh has fought hard to earn the label as the worst team in the conference—the team lost by 55 last week against Louisville—but even the Panthers sport a win against Virginia and took the Tar Heels to the wire Tuesday night.

Although N.C. State and Boston College will likely be watching the Big Dance from the comfort of their homes, Blue Devil fans know best that even these two cellar-dwellers are capable of putting up a fight on any given night.

With the logjam near the middle of the conference standings, separating contenders from pretenders has never been harder. But midway through the season, form is starting to slowly take shape near the top.

From the way it looks right now, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State and Louisville have emerged as the favorites to take home the regular-season crown. But before they begin the celebration in Chapel Hill, it’s important to note that the Tar Heels have an incredibly back-loaded schedule, with six of their final eight games against ranked opponents.

On the other end of the spectrum lie the Seminoles, who have only two games against ranked opponents remaining. But this may actually be a bad thing for Leonard Hamilton and company. After putting the nation on notice with a 5-1 record in six consecutive games against top-25 opponents, Florida State has dropped consecutive games against the Yellow Jackets and Syracuse for seemingly no apparent reason.

Although the Cavaliers and Cardinals are two of the least flashy teams in the conference, they figure to stay entrenched near the top of the standings as well. Many expected Louisville to slip a bit with starting guard Quentin Snider injured, but backcourt mate Donovan Mitchell has done his best Stephen Curry impression as the team's last three victories have come by average of more than 37 points.

Some of the most intrigue in the conference comes at the 5-4 mark in the middle of the standings. In addition to the aforementioned Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech and Syracuse all have given college basketball fans mixed signals this year.

Syracuse is perhaps the biggest enigma in the conference and has failed to come anywhere near its lofty preseason expectations. The Orange lost by 33 at home to St. John's in December—yes, we’re all still confused about that one. But the team’s roster has slowly adapted to head coach Jim Boehieim’s zone defense scheme, and the Orange showed their ability to make postseason runs after rocky regular seasons again last year.

And speaking of not meeting expectations, the Blue Devils sit just two games out of the top spot in the conference despite making walking boots popular to start to the year due to their revolving door of lower-leg injuries. Once everyone finishes discussing whether Duke is back during the week, the Blue Devils will begin the first of three consecutive games at Cameron Indoor Stadium that could boost the nation's preseason No. 1 team further up the ranks.

But even if Duke does make a move and gets head coach Mike Krzyzewski back from lower-back surgery soon, the Blue Devils still might not be able to snag a top-four seed in the ACC—another indication of the league's strength this year. 

Coming into the year, the idea that Duke could finish fifth in the ACC was hard to imagine. 

However, in a conference as tough as this one, right now it’s hard to pinpoint any true winners or losers—just a bunch of battle-tested teams that will enter the NCAA tournament already having been pushed to the limit.