"You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away—Slip Slidin’ Away, Paul Simon

Lots of strange, head-scratching occurrences in this pandemic dominated college basketball season as we move through a bumpy season toward March Madness..

But this one factoid jumped out. 

For the first time since 1961, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky are not in the Associated Press's college basketball Top 25.

That's three schools with a combined total of 22 national championships in men's basketball.

And, as this season moves towards some kind of conclusion, the ultimate goal for each of those programs appears to be more remote.

Kentucky's problem, which Wildcat coach John Calipari has yet to correct, is they simply may be too young, which has not been a problem in the past for Coach Cal; or, perhaps simply not good enough, again not an issue in the past for the Wildcats.

History suggests that Calipari will correct the issues by tournament time.

The issues in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with not only Carolina and Duke, but the other Tobacco Road ACC entries, Wake Forest and NC State, are more perplexing.

Consider the latest ACC basketball standings with Clemson, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State as the top four teams.  

Duke with a 5-4 overall record is in seventh place, while Carolina (9-5) is in eighth. NC State (6-4) is 10th and Wake Forest (3-6) is in last place.

If this were a one-time blip, with COVID-19 issues as part of the equation, the lack of domination from Duke and Carolina would be easier to explain, or understand.

But Coach Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils have not won an ACC regular season title since 2010, although they have won two of the last four ACC tournament titles and have been a NCAA Sweet 16 entry four of the past six seasons.

North Carolina and Coach Roy Williams have won four of the last six ACC regular season titles, but have dropped off the charts the past few years.

A year ago, the Tar Heels imploded and finished in a last place tie in the ACC with Wake Forest creating  all sorts of angst in Chapel Hill. That led  to some expected cynical comments such as, "I guess its different when the Tar Heels have to attend classes (a reference to the academic scandal and a lengthy NCAA investigation).

Williams has brought his team back to the respectable phase, but neither the Tar Heels nor the Blue Devils are displaying anything close to their pedigree.

In ESPN bracketoligist Joe Lunardi's latest rankings, both teams are No. 11 seeds, putting them in the marginal category at best.

We are only at the halfway point of a season which might not end until late spring because of COVID-19 issues. 

The ACC is not alone in its topsy-turvy college basketball world, but a few teams have only played a handful of conference games and "upsets'' are increasingly difficult to label.

College football dealt with similar issues, but put together a blue-chip Final Four of Notre Dame,  Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson, with Alabama cruising to the national title.

The college basketball projections are far murkier than that. 

After No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor, there are no trends to trace, other than that anything is possible on any night or day.

Unless something dramatically changes in the next few weeks, it looks like it will be an early spring for college basketball along Tobacco Road.