There's no telling precisely when the madness will begin.
Only that it's inevitableandusually arrives sooner rather than later. On a day such asThursday, when the NCAA Tournament opens in earnest with all four of its infamous 5-12 matchups in action along with several other upset favorites, the smart money is on the former.
That means look out, Notre Dame.
Virginia, Minnesota andIowa State are on notice, too.
Also in play is Villanova, the defending national champion and overall No. 1 seed, and a popular Final Four pick in Arizona. There's plenty to watch, so let's narrow it down.
Here's a glimpse at a few of the more intriguing storylines to keep an eye on as the first round gets under way:
No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC-Wilmington, 12:40 p.m. ET (truTV)
Only four times since 1985 has at least one No. 12 seed failed to defeat a No. 5 seed in a single tournament (1988, 2000, '07, '15). That bodes well for a dangerous group of 12s that also includes Princeton, Middle Tennessee and Nevada. UNC-Wilmingtonseems to be the most popular pick among prognosticators to make a deep run,with arosterdotted with holdovers from the squad that nearly upset Duke in last year's first round.
By the way, truTV is an actual thing. For the uninitiated, DirecTV subscribers can find it on Ch. 246;DISH Network,Ch. 149; AT&T U-Verse,Ch. 164 or 1164 (HD).
No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt, 4:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Already the darlings of March, the Wildcats take the dance floor for the first time in the program's 78-year history in Division I. To put that into perspective, since 1939, when the NCAA Tournament was founded,341 schools have earned invitations.Kentucky has done it a record 50 times, followed byNorth Carolina, Kansas and UCLAwith 46 each.
Northwestern is one of five programs (with Jacksonville State, UC Davis, North Dakota and Northern Kentucky) making its debut in 2017.
On the heels of a memorable run through the Big Ten, how much longer can the Wildcats keep it up?
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's, 7:10 p.m. ET (CBS)
Villanova enters as one of the tournament's top storylines if only for the significance (and real possibility) of a repeat.
The last team to win back-to-back national championships: Florida, in 2006-07. Villanova, led by a cast of returnees from last year's title squad — Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson — might be even better than the Gators were then. Not to mention, the Wildcats boast the nation's No. 2 scoring offense.
A lowly No. 16 seedhas never beaten a No. 1 in the men's tournament (0-124) since the field expanded to 64 in 1985, but try telling that to the Mountaineers. FiveThirtyEight.com's math suggests the gap is closing, though 'Nova is a 27-point favorite. The ultimate Cinderella story is practically written.
A Mount St. Mary's win would no doubt go down as the greatest upset in history.