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March Madness: A breakdown of North Carolina and the West region from an odds perspective

[Betting by region: East | South | Midwest | West]

There was little question about the first three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. There was some debate over the fourth.

North Carolina didn't win the ACC tournament and it seemed like Iowa State might steal the fourth No. 1 seed, but the committee chose UNC anyway (and had Iowa State as the fourth-ranked No. 2 seed, somehow).

Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab and Scott Pianowski will break down each region from a betting and bracket perspective, with odds from BetMGM. Here is a look at the West:

Do you trust the favorite?

Frank Schwab: North Carolina is the favorite, and the most vulnerable No. 1 seed. UNC has a great guard/big combo in R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot, and they have some impressive wins. It’s not like they’re bad. But unless you like all four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, this is probably the one you’re picking against. It’s hard to pick a No. 1 seed to lose in the second round, but if Mississippi State advances past Michigan State I could see them challenging UNC.

Scott Pianowski: The Tar Heels strike me as one of those tease rosters. Catch them on the right night, they look unbeatable — remember the 36-point pasting they put on Syracuse? And one month later they lost to the same Orange on the road, a game that Syracuse controlled for 40 minutes. UNC’s relatively low assist-to-basket ratio makes me wonder if this team has truly jelled. Nothing felt fluky about NC State’s defeat of the Heels in the ACC tournament.

RJ Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels got the final No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
R.J. Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels got the final No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) (Greg Fiume via Getty Images)

Which non-No. 1 seed could make a run?

FS: It’s not like this is a bold pick taking the No. 2 seed, but there’s a lot to like about Arizona. Purdue’s first-round exit stole the headlines last year, but Arizona had its own first-round flameout and I think that'll motivate the Wildcats. They had some weird losses in a bad Pac-12 but they’re a well-balanced team. And don’t forget, the Final Four is in Phoenix this year.

SP: Arizona’s championship odds are a trifle shorter than North Carolina’s, which is telling — even if part of that story is the location of the Final Four. I suspect the Wildcats will get a little more love in Yahoo's bracket game, too. One thing that concerns me about Arizona is a tendency to play hero ball; sometimes the ball stops moving and someone (usually Caleb Love) takes a bad, contested shot. Granted, Love makes a lot of those heaves, too.

First-round game to watch

FS: Saint Mary’s vs. Grand Canyon is a fantastic matchup. Saint Mary’s almost ran the table in the WCC after an uneven start to the season. It's a familiar brand name among college basketball fans. Grand Canyon was good all season in the WAC. Tyon Grant-Foster is a fantastic story and a great college basketball player. He averages 19.8 points per game. Grand Canyon is a 5.5-point underdog, but we all know that No. 12 seeds are always good for an upset or two in the tournament.

SP: We both see North Carolina as potentially vulnerable, which means the 8-9 game between Mississippi State and Michigan State is a critical scouting watch. Both the Bulldogs and Spartans have been maddeningly inconsistent, to the point that none of their results look out of place. MSU is an analytics darling with a bunch of goofy results; this is a team that opened the year No. 4 overall but was out of the rankings before December.

Which long shot is being overlooked?

FS: When a No. 11 seed is favored in the first round, the committee probably made a mistake. New Mexico is a 1.5-point favorite over Clemson and maybe it should be more. Nevada has good guards and doesn’t have a glaring weakness. There’s no reason the Wolf Pack couldn’t upset Baylor in the second round either, considering the Bears aren’t the best defensive team.

SP: I had to triple-check the brackets to make sure New Mexico was actually an 11. It makes zero sense. The Lobos are 23rd in overall KenPom efficiency; they’re even one of the best teams against the spread in the country. I’d be surprised if they lost to an ordinary Clemson team, and New Mexico won’t be a heavy underdog against Baylor.