Those are among the subplots as ACC basketball's mid-season narrative unfolds.
Start with Florida State (13-6, 4-1), which in an eight-day stretch upset North Carolina, dusted Maryland and ended Duke's 45-game home winning streak. As usual, the Seminoles are NBA-long and defend fiercely, and if they continue their recent shooting — 49.7 percent combined in those three victories — they will win the regular season.
You shouldn't be surprised. Only Florida State and Duke have won at least 10 ACC games each of the last three seasons.
The only programs ever to win 10 or more ACC games in at least four consecutive seasons are North Carolina, Duke and Maryland.
The only coaches: Carolina's Frank McGuire, Dean Smith and Roy Williams; Duke's Vic Bubas and Mike Krzyzewski, and Maryland's Gary Williams. Icons all.
"We just seemed to always be just a little out of sorts, guys maybe trying to do things out of their ability zone, not having a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses," Hamilton said of his team's rough early season. "Hearts in the right place with an unselfish spirit. (But) we just had not matured. Now we're improving and we're maturing, and hopefully this is the team that we'll be the remainder of the year."
Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys are streaky shooters, Xavier Gibson, Bernard James and Okaro White form an imposing front line, and Ian Miller, Jon Kreft and Luke Loucks provide depth.
"They're the most experienced, the oldest team in our league, and they're as deep as anybody, and they play really good defense," Krzyzewski said. "You know, they have men.
"They have six guys who are seniors, two post-grads and then James who's older (he turns 27 next month) because of his (Air Force) service. I mean, they're just different than anybody in our league. It's easy to see that they're very well-coached."
North Carolina's depth suffers with the loss of starting wing Dexter Strickland, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Thursday at Virginia Tech. He was not only the Tar Heels' best perimeter defender but also the only experienced backup to point guard Kendall Marshall.
Reggie Bullock, a McDonald's High School All-American like Strickland, will replace him in the lineup. But unlike Strickland, Bullock is not comfortable sliding to the point when Marshall needs a rest.
That leaves relatively unheralded freshman Stilman White. He's played in 15 of North Carolina's 19 games, averaging 4.3 minutes and 0.9 points.
"We're going to try to give Stilman some time there," Roy Williams said. "We're going to try to do a little more work even on the passing game not having a true point guard, see how that works out. …
"Right now, Dexter has been giving us probably three minutes or so each half, and that's just a guesstimate kind of thing, at the point guard spot, and Kendall's played the rest. But we've got to find some way to get Kendal a little bit of a break during each half."
Idle since their victory over the Hokies, the Tar Heels (16-3, 3-1) host N.C. State (15-5, 4-1) on Thursday. The Wolfpack has lost eight consecutive games at the Dean Dome, the second most notable streak surrounding this matchup.
State junior Scott Wood has made 58 straight free throws dating to last season, eclipsing the ACC record of 54 set by former Duke All-American J.J. Redick. Moreover, Wood leads the conference in 3-point accuracy at 45.3 percent.
"If he gets a chance to get an open three, if he gets any separation at all, he shoots that at a very, very high level of proficiency," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said after Wood made 7-of-7 free throws and 4-of-6 threes against the Hurricanes on Saturday. "You absolutely cannot foul him because he goes to the foul line, and he's just so focused, so consistent and so skilled in that area.
"It's a part of the game that a lot of players overlook, and that's why you see so many guys not shoot a high percentage. But in this case, that is his game, and he's come from a state that's produced an awful lot of great shooters over the years, and he's certainly one of them."
Wood hails from Indiana, birthplace of renowned shooters such as Larry Bird, Steve Alford and Jimmy Chitwood. A former Virginia assistant, Larranaga said the best shooter he's coached was Cavaliers All-American Jeff Lamp.
"Those guys were great shooters and really work at their craft," Larranaga said. "I know every day at practice, (Lamp) shot at minimum 100 free throws, and if he made less than 95, he'd stay and shoot another hundred.
"So the great shooters, they work at it. You hear stories about Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics, the leading 3-point shooter in NBA history, and he still shoots two hours before game time to get his stroke right. Scott Wood falls into that category."
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP