Making the weekend for Alabama Basketball and seven other NCAA West Regional teams

The West Regional sets up well for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Check out the region's eight teams most likely to advance to the weekend Second Round.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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How many First Round locks are there in the NCAA Tournament West Regional? Is Alabama Basketball one of them? What West Regional team is the most vulnerable favorite? These questions and others are swirling through the minds of fans of sixteen teams. Technically it is 17 teams, including the teams in the play-in game, Howard and Wagner.

Many college basketball prognosticators have the Alabama Crimson Tide as the most vulnerable 4-Seed in the entire NCAA Tournament field. Many Alabama fans counter that opinion with belief the West Regional provides a good opportunity for the Crimson Tide to advance to a Sweet Sixteen slot.

West Regional First Round Locks

Locks are defined by a win probability of 98% or higher

  • North Carolina Tar Heels (1-Seed) over the winner of Howard vs. Wagner (16-Seed)
  • Arizona Wildcats (2-Seed) over Long Beach State (15-Seed)

West Regional First Round Near-Locks

Near-Locks are defined by a win probability of 90% or higher

  • Baylor Bears (3-Seed) over Colgate Raiders (14-Seed)
  • Alabama Crimson Tide (4-Seed) over Charleston Cougars (13-Seed)

West Regional Probable First Round Winners

  • St. Mary's Gaels (5-Seed) over Grand Canyon Antelopes (12-Seed)

St. Mary's is a physical and sound defensive team. The lesser-known Gaels beat Gonzaga in two out of three games this season. At No. 20, KenPom has St. Mary's ranked not far below the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Gaels have won 18 out of their last 19 games. KenPom has Grand Canyon at No. 53, indicating the Antelopes are capable of pulling off a 12-Seed win. ESPN projects a 77% win probability for St. Mary's.

West Regional First Round Toss-Ups

  • Clemson Tigers (6-Seed) vs. New Mexico Lobos (11-Seed)

The Tigers are favored at 62% by ESPN, but New Mexico is the better team according to the KenPom ratings. The Lobos are good at rebounding, blocks, steals, and their three-guard lineup commits just over five combined turnovers a game.

  • Michigan State Spartans (9-Seed) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-Seed)

ESPN favors the Spartans at 60%, but Tom Izzo's team was shaky early in the season and has lost five of their last seven games. The Bulldogs are good enough to win but they have lost four of their last six games. A true tossup game could go either way, but it is hard to pick against Izzo at tournament time.

  • Dayton Flyers (7-Seed) vs. Nevada Wolfpack (10-Seed)

ESPN gives Dayton a slight edge at 58%. In what will be an old-school game in terms of pace, the two teams are good enough to advance and even win a Second Round game. Dayton has an edge on offense, thanks to 40%-plus three-point shooting. The Wolfpack are the slightly better defensive team. The winner is likely to squeak by late.

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