For a men’s basketball team like Duke, with 20 straight trips, going to the N.C.A.A. tournament is a given. Other teams have waited for a return to the tournament for years: Columbia since 1968, and Rice since 1970.
But there are five teams without even ancient history to look back upon with satisfaction. William & Mary, Army, Northwestern, St. Francis of New York and the Citadel are all original members of Division I who have never managed to play in the tournament at all.
That could change this year; at least three of those teams have a real chance of breaking the jinx.
Here is a look at the five teams, in order of likelihood of success (all records and statistics through Monday’s games).
William & Mary
Conference: 4-2, tied for first, Colonial
Close call: Lost the Colonial tournament final and an automatic N.C.A.A. berth in 2014 by 1 point to Delaware.
Best Win in 2015-16: at North Carolina State in the season opener.
Star: The junior shooting guard Omar Prewitt had 17 points against North Carolina State and is averaging 17.2 a game.
Chances: Because William & Mary is probably not quite good enough for an at-large berth, it will all come down to the conference tournament in Baltimore. The Colonial is deep at the top, with James Madison, Hofstra, N.C. Wilmington, Northeastern and Towson State all currently tied with the Tribe for the conference lead. A third straight loss in the final for William & Mary would be heartbreaking.
Conference: 3-3, tied for fourth, Patriot
Ranking: RPI 199, Sagarin 177, Ken Pom 167
Close call: Army turned down an N.C.A.A. berth in 1968 because Coach Bob Knight thought his team was better suited to the N.I.T. Since the Patriot League began its tournament in 1991, Army has never made the final.
Best win in 2015-16: Monmouth
Star: Senior Kyle Wilson is one of the nation’s most productive 3-point shooters.
Chances: The Patriot is a one-bid league, so Army will have to win the conference tournament. It could be a three-way race with Bucknell and Navy. Home teams are determined by regular-season standings, so every game matters for the Knights. Imagine a tournament final pitting Army against Navy at West Point for an N.C.A.A. berth.
Conference: 3-3, tied for seventh, Big Ten
Ranking: RPI 114, Sagarin 65, KenPom 71
Close call: Northwestern has won 20 games only twice in its history, 2010 and 2011. But in both of those years it was well back in the Big Ten pack and went to the N.I.T.
Best win in 2015-16: at Virginia Tech
Star: Fifth-year senior Tre Demps, the son of the Pelicans general manager, Dell Demps.
Chances: The only one of the five with a fighting chance at an at-large berth: Last year, the Big Ten got seven teams into the tournament. A top six finish, say, with a run to the semifinals of the conference tournament in Indianapolis would be enough.
St Francis of New York
Conference: 3-3, tied for fifth, Northeast Conference
Ranking: RPI 323; Sagarin 284, KenPom 278
Close call: The Terriers won their conference last season with a 15-3 record, but lost by 3 points to Robert Morris in the conference tournament final on their home floor.
Best win in 2015-16: at Lafayette.
Star: The sophomore guard Tyreek Jewell of the Bronx is the leading scorer.
Chances: A winning run in the Northeast Conference tournament is required, but as games are at the home sites of the higher seeds, that will be difficult.
Conference: 1-4, ninth in Southern Conference
Ranking: RPI 293, Sagarin 317, KenPom 299
Close call: In 2009, the team won 20 games and qualified for the postseason for the first time, in the second-tier Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Best win in 2015-16: Georgia Southern
Star The leading scorer is Derrick Henry, not to be confused with the Alabama running back.
Chances: Not good. One of the weaker teams in the Southern Conference, an early exit in the conference tournament in Asheville, N.C., is likely. But four straight upset wins is not impossible, and fans of the Citadel, as of all these teams, will not stop dreaming until the last possible moment.