With just two weeks remaining in the ACC season, the race for the conference championship has eliminated the pretenders and left fans with three clear cut contenders—Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.
Interestingly enough, this was more-or-less as predicted in the preseason, although after Florida State's non-conference struggles no one anticipated the Seminoles' strong comeback in January. Still, the Seminoles control their own destiny in the ACC race and have the most favorable remaining schedule to boot.
Florida State holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Tar Heels after thrashing them by 33 points back in January at home in the pair's lone meeting. More importantly, the Seminoles last major challenge comes against Duke in Tallahassee—if Florida State can pull off another upset their path to the ACC title is clear, with only games against middling opponents Miami, Virginia and Clemson remaining. However, two of those contests come on the road, which is always a challenge in ACC play.
Duke also controls its own destiny in the conference, albeit with a slightly more difficult path. The Blue Devils must take down the Seminoles in Tallahassee Thursday to have a chance at the conference crown, but even then would still have to down rival North Carolina at home in the season's final game. However, in between those two important matchups Duke faces conference bottom-feeders Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
North Carolina will, ironically, need some help from its biggest rival if it wants to claim the ACC title. The Blue Devils have the best chance to down Florida State in the last two weeks of conference play, and without a Florida State loss North Carolina can at best lose the tie-breaker for the top seed in the ACC Tournament. Even if the Seminoles fall, though, defeating Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium will be a tough task for the Tar Heels, who have lost five of their last six games against the Blue Devils.
Much will be resolved in this three-way race, though, when Duke and Florida State face off Thursday.