ACC Coastal race may get messier before ending

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) It's called the transitive property of inequality, a fancy way of saying that if A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A must be greater than C.

Works in math. Not in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division.

Meet the top remaining contenders for the ACC's Coastal title: Duke (4-1 in league play), Georgia Tech (5-2) and Miami (3-2). Now, check if the transitive property applies:

- Duke beat Georgia Tech.

- Georgia Tech beat Miami.

- So ... Miami beat Duke.

Rule of math, defeated. Coastal standings, a muddled mess.

''That's pretty much how it's been, right?'' Miami coach Al Golden said.

Since the ACC went to a divisional format in 2005, only two teams have escaped regular-season play with 8-0 records - Virginia Tech in 2010, and Florida State last year. In 2012, a 5-3 record (and Miami self-imposing sanctions because of an NCAA investigation) got Georgia Tech to the ACC title game as the Coastal winner. Last year, Duke won the Coastal at 6-2.

This year seems wackier.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe told reporters in July they should do a preseason top-to-bottom ranking of the seven Coastal teams, then flip the paper over and list the teams again in reverse order.

''It would be interesting to see which one was the most accurate,'' Cutcliffe said.

Turns out, he was right.

Of the 100-plus votes cast by media members in a poll asking them to pick this year's ACC champion, the only Coastal Division team that got a single nod was Virginia Tech.

The Hokies are currently last in the Coastal, eliminated from the race.

''I knew it was going to be a little bit of an up and down year,'' Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.

The game that really throws off that transitive property is Georgia Tech beating Miami. Not only did the Yellow Jackets lose to Duke, but they also lost to North Carolina - a team that the Hurricanes dominated.

Hence, Coastal chaos.

The Atlantic Division picture is clear: One more win for Florida State or a Clemson loss to Georgia Tech, and the Seminoles are headed back to the conference title matchup.

The Coastal race is much murkier.

Duke is in the driver's seat, with three league games left, all of them at home. Win out, and the Blue Devils are headed to the ACC title game. Lose once, and things could get interesting. Lose twice, who knows what will happen.

Knowing that, there's no division-title talk happening in Durham.

''We don't play bad teams,'' Cutcliffe said. ''At this level, there is no such thing.''

Maybe so, but there are some ACC teams clearly better than others. And that's helping Duke.

Each ACC team plays two cross-division games. Duke's Atlantic Division foes (Syracuse and Wake Forest) are a combined 1-10 in league play. Georgia Tech's crossover opponents, Clemson and North Carolina State, are a combined 7-6. And Miami's crossover teams are Florida State and Louisville, a combined 11-3.

Given that, there's a chance Miami - which has Pittsburgh and Virginia remaining after Florida State and will likely be favored in both - could finish with the best record within Coastal play but finish third in the division.

Pitt and Virginia both looked like title hopefuls early; Virginia is out of the race, and Pitt has dropped five of its last six games.

''Miami's not out of this thing by a long stretch,'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. ''They've got a couple games in the league. If they win they'll probably have the tiebreakers on a three-way tie.''

Georgia Tech finishes ACC play this weekend against Clemson. The way tiebreakers may shake out, it's probably win-or-else for the Yellow Jackets' divisional hopes.

''It's long from being over,'' Johnson said.

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