Remember when ACC teams began conference play about a month ago, and how it seemed like the road to the regular-season championship would be limited to a two-team race between North Carolina and Duke? The perception then, of course, was that the Tar Heels were so strong, and the rest of the league so weak by comparison, that UNC would have little trouble securing the ACC tournament's top seed.
We should have known better. If there's one lesson that ACC basketball has provided over the years - especially in this era of parity and near-constant roster turnover - it's this: Expect the unexpected.
So here we are, just past the midpoint of the conference schedule, and the league's top six teams are within one game of one another in the loss column. UNC, Duke and Florida State, which has beaten both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, are all 7-2. N.C. State (7-3), Virginia and Miami (both 6-3) aren't too far behind.
It has been a predictably unpredictable first half of the season, making it time for some midseason - OK, slightly past-midseason - conference awards:
Most (pleasantly) surprising team: Miami. The Canes started off 0-2 in ACC play but since have won six of seven - including a double-OT win against Maryland and an overtime win at Duke.
Most (not-so-pleasantly) surprising team: Virginia Tech. What's going on in Blacksburg? The Hokies, 2-7 in league play, have gone backwards in coach Seth Greenberg's ninth season.
Player of the Year: Tyler Zeller, UNC. A close, close race here among Zeller, Virginia's Mike Scott and a couple of others. But Zeller has averaged 18.3 points and 11 rebounds per game in conference games, and that's tough to beat.
All-ACC 1st team: Harrison Barnes, UNC; Mike Scott, Virginia; Michael Snaer, Florida State; Terrell Stoglin, Maryland; Tyler Zeller, UNC.
All-ACC 2nd team: Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State; John Henson, UNC; Kendall Marshall, UNC; Mason Plumlee, Duke; Austin Rivers, Duke.
All-ACC 3rd team: Erick Green, Virginia Tech; C.J. Harris, Wake Forest; Kenny Kadji, Miami; C.J. Leslie, N.C. State; Durand Scott, Miami.
Best game: Duke 85, UNC 84, Wednesday in Chapel Hill. Longtime N&O columnist Caulton Tudor described this as the best non-overtime Duke-UNC game in history. He would know, given that he estimated he's covered between 80 and 90 Duke-UNC games. Rivers' 3-pointer at the buzzer is permanently etched in the rivalry's lore.
Best team performance: Florida State 90, UNC 57, Jan. 14 in Tallahassee. The Seminoles could have beaten any team in the nation the way they played last month against the Tar Heels. They dominated both offensively and defensively and provided UNC with its worst loss of the Roy Williams era. UNC will have to hope for a rematch in the ACC tournament. The teams won't meet again in the regular season.
Best single-game individual performance: Deividas Dulkys, Florida State. The Seminoles' senior scored a career-high 32 points in that 90-57 victory against UNC. He made 12 of his 14 field goal attempts, including 8-of-10 from 3-point range. Since then, Dulkys hasn't scored more than 12 points in any game.
Coach of the year: Mark Gottfried, N.C. State. In his first season in Raleigh, Gottfried has successfully blended a collection of talented players into a cohesive team. The Wolfpack hasn't been this relevant in the conference race, this late in the season, in a long time.
Freshman of the year: Austin Rivers, Duke. This is the one award on this list that actually could be given out now. Rivers has been the league's freshman of the week six times already, and he'll win the honor a seventh time come Monday.
One last thought: Exactly one month from today will be championship Sunday in Atlanta at the ACC tournament.