It's the distinction nobody wants and the topic nobody wants to talk about, but N.C. State, Miami and North Carolina will engage in two games in the next four days that will likely determine last place in the ACC.
The Wolfpack, 3-10 in the ACC, travels to Miami (4-9) today for the first of two games that are essentially a play-in to next year's ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The No. 12 seed in the ACC Tournament sits out the made-for-ESPN challenge since the Big Ten has only 11 teams. N.C. State watched the challenge in 2009, after claiming the No. 12 seed in the 2008 ACC Tournament. Miami took the last-place prize in the 2007 ACC Tournament.
For UNC, 3-10 in the ACC, it's uncharted territory. The Tar Heels, who host Miami on Tuesday after today's trip to Wake Forest, have never finished last in the ACC.
The 8-20 team in 2001-02 went 4-12 in the ACC but were the No. 7 seed (out of nine teams) because of the tiebreaker. Since the ACC Tournament added a first round in 1992, UNC is the only team that hasn't played on Thursday.
Each team has three games left. The path to, or away from, No. 12:
ACC record: 4-9
Remaining games: N.C. State, at UNC, Florida State
Bottom line: If the Hurricanes beat the Pack today, they can't finish lower than 11th. Easy enough.
But if they lose today, at 0-7 on the road in the ACC, the trip to Chapel Hill doesn't look promising and the defensive-minded Seminoles are a brutal matchup for Miami's poor-shooting offense.
A loss to the Wolfpack today likely turns into three and the Canes get the No. 12 seed.
ACC record: 3-10
Remaining games: at Wake Forest, Miami, at Duke
Bottom line: By virtue of its season sweep, UNC holds the tiebreaker over N.C. State. That means State has to finish a game clear of the Heels. That's the good news for UNC.
The bad news is the Heels have already lost to Wake by 13 at home and they have to finish the season at Duke.
You figure they beat Miami at home and get to the barn at 4-12, but that means they have to root for State to lose twice.
ACC record: 3-10
Remaining games: at Miami, at Virginia Tech, Boston College
Bottom line: State has to win today, there's no way around it. Beat "The U" and close with a home win over BC, and State is 5-11 with a tiebreaker over Miami and probably a game clear of UNC.
Lose today and it has no tiebreakers and a trip to Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is 14-0 this season.