Welcome to the Fifth Annual Mascot Bracket. This has become one of my favorite posts of the year. It has also become one of my most popular. If you don’t know what the Mascot Bracket is, then you’ve been missing out on the greatest formula for picking the winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Instead of picking the winner of each game based on silly things like the talent of the players, experience of the coaches, or the complexities of match-ups the Mascot Bracket picks the winners based on this: Which mascot would win in a fight?
There are some important rules to follow. The rules seem cut-and-dry, but like the Levitical code, the interpretation of these rules can get messy.
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- When determining the winner, origins of the nickname are of primary importance (see Blue Devils and Jayhawks). Current official mascots are used to find out needed details, such as whether or not the mascot is armed, and for disambiguation, such as which type of Aggie?
- Inanimate objects, e.g. colors and plants, always lose to animate objects.
- Predators beat non-predators and unarmed humans.
- Humans beat non-predators.
- Humans with weapons beat predators.
- Humans with weapons beat humans without weapons.
- Humans with superior technology/weapons/training win.
- Supernatural beings and killer weather systems defeat human warriors.
- Many animals, especially birds and fish, can survive devastating storms.
- If the schools have the same mascot, then the higher seed wins.
- Prepositions lose to everything. (See explanation of What’s a Hoya)
- Don’t turn your back on bears.
16 North Carolina A&T Aggies def. 16 Liberty Flames. Right off the bat, there is a tough one. Aggies are always one of the hardest mascots to pin down. On the most basic level, an Aggie is simply someone involved in agriculture. The problem is the “Aggie” is one of the most inconsistent mascots there is. There are seven schools that are Aggies. Delaware Valley College uses a ram. New Mexico State uses a guy with a lasso or gun, depending on which logo you use. Oklahoma Panhandle State uses a slick-looking guy riding a horse. Texas A&M uses Lassie. UC Davis uses a horse. Utah State has a anthropomorphised bull. North Carolina A&T’s Aggie is a bulldog. So, do I use a farmer, or a bulldog? Liberty doesn’t make it any eaiser. A flame is pretty non-descript. A flame could be a raging fire or a match stick. Their mascot though, is an Eagle (a flaming Eagle?). In Bulldog vs Eagle, I pick the bulldog. This might be disputable, but bulldogs are tough SOBs. They were bred to fight wild boars and bears. BEARS.
11 St. Mary’s Gaels def. 11 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. If you watch this little video, you learn that at one time the mascot for the MTSU was some guy dressed up as Nathan Bedford Forrest. This is the same man who is largely identified as the founding father of the Ku Klux Klan. The video says this practice stopped in the 1960s, and that the blue winged horse named “Lightning” was adopted in the 1990s to update the school’s brand. According to wikipedia, Lightning was the name of Forrest’s horse, but several other sites identify his horse as “King Phillip.”
The St. Mary’s Gael on the other hand, is a tough one. In its purest sense, a Gael is simply someone from Ireland or Scotland. The Gael is not inherently armed, nor particularly fierce. In some sense, I am a Gael, and I would stand no chance in fighting against a pegasus without (or probably with) a weapon. St. Mary’s though, uses an armored, mounted, knight as their mascot. This means we are dealing with a fight between an unmanned pegasus and a mounted knight with lance. This is a clear, if somewhat fantastic, example of rule #5.
16 North Carolina A&T Aggies def. 1 Louisville Cardinals. If the bulldog could take out an eagle, a cardinal wouldn’t have a chance. A 16 has never beaten a 1. Earlier in the year, I predicted this is the year that it would happen.
9 Missouri Tigers def 8 Colorado State Rams. A ram is pretty tough, but the tiger is one of the most fearsome predators on the planet.
5 Oklahoma State Cowboys def 12 Oregon Ducks. The ducks are going to need more than supplemental health insurance after squaring off against a gun-toting Cowboy. Plus, the Ok State Cowboy features one of the great mascot mustaches of all-time. This is one of the biggest blowouts of the first round.
13 New Mexico State Aggies def. 4 Saint Louis Billikens. I swear, the Aggies need their own rule. As I said before, New Mexico State features a farmer with either two six-shooters or a lasso. The Aggies’ mustache could create quite a second-round match up, if they can get by the Billikens. Which, of course, brings us to one of the most mysterious mascots in all of college sports. The story behind the billiken involves a sports writer, a Drug store owner, a student artist, a popular lucky charm from the early 20th century and a basketball coach look alike. While at first glance, the Billiken looks like it might have some magical powers, beyond luck, it seems defenseless. So Billiken, you’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
2 Duke Blue Devils def. 15 Albany Great Danes. Albany has a unique mascot. According to Slackcat.com, they are the only Great Danes in college sports. Going into the tournament, I was pulling for the Fighting Scoobies. Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a chance against the Blue Devils. Fans of the Mascot Bracket should know by now that the Blue Devils are named for an elite World War I unit that were renowned for their courage. Before Duke was named after the Blue Devils, they were known by some as “The Methodists,” whose biggest rivals were the Wake Forest “Baptists.” So, sorry Scooby, that Blue Devil is not Old Man Withers from the haunted amusement park. He’s a well-trained soldier.
10 Cincinatti Bearcats def. 7 Creighton Blue Jays. While a blue jay is considered a pretty mean bird, it would not stand a chance against the binturong.
3 Michigan State Spartans vs 14 Valparaiso Crusaders. This is another tough match-up. Sparta was a city-state devoted to building soldiers. Everything in the society contributed to one goal: creating shining, almost chromatic abs (as seen in Ken Burns’ documentary 300*). The Crusaders are knights in shining armor. So here we have the question: Abs of Steel or actual steel? It is really hard to bet against a Spartan against any human without gunpowder.
11 St. Mary’s Gaels def. 6 Memphis Tigers. While this would be an interesting match, I have to invoke rule 5 again.
8 Missouri Tigers def 16 NC A&T Aggies. I’m still in awe of the bear-fighting bulldogs, but Tigers are pretty intense. I mean, clearly Tigers are no match for an Indian kid on a boat with a stick, but still. I’m going with the Tigers.
13 New Mexico State Aggies def. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Aggies and the Cowboys are virtually identical. This looks like a Rule 10 match. The only discernible difference lies in the quality of their mustache. While the Oklahoma State Cowboy is unkempt and bushy, the NMSU Aggie could be played by Ron Swanson.
2 Duke Blue Devils def. 10 Cincinatti Bearcats. Rule #5
3 Michigan State Spartans def. 11 St. Mary’s Gaels. For almost the exact same reasons as Michigan State’s second round win.
13 The Fighting Ron Swansons def. 8 Missouri Tigers. Afterwards, Ron has tiger meat for dinner.
2 Duke Blue Devils def. 3 Michigan State Spartans. The abs are glorious, but they cannot stop bullets.
Regional Final: Duke Blue Devils def. New Mexico State Fighting Ron Swansons. “Capitalism is what makes America great, England ok, and France terrible” (Ron Swanson, in Parks and Rec). The Blue Devils were a French unit in World War I, and while the French now have a terrible military reputation, for centuries the French were the most respected army in the world. This is a tough call to make, but I have mad respect for the French army in World War I.
1 Kansas Jayhawks def. 16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The Western Kentucky Hilltopper looks like the love child of the Red M&M and Ronald McDonald’s best friend. If I had to guess the origin of the WKU Hilltoppers, I would have thought it had something to do with a Civil War battle or group of soldiers. Nope. According to this article, the Hilltoppers got their name from moving the campus, yes, up a hill. This means that a Hilltopper is simply a college student carrying a box. This does not paint the picture of a fierce fighter, but neither does a Jayhawk, which bears a striking resemblance to Foghorn Leghorn.
The story behind the Jayhawk though, reveals that it is much tougher than that. The term Jayhawk comes from one of the most tumultuous eras in our nation’s history. As Kansas approached statehood, there was a great debate over whether it would be a slave or free state. It was decided that it would be decided by a vote of its citizens. This resulted in a whole slew of shenanigans from both free-state and slave-state supporters. Those engaging in the shenanigans became known as Jayhawkers. No one is quite sure where that term came from. Eventually though, it became identified with the free-staters. All of this means that a Jayhawk is someone willing to steal a horse, burn down a house, damage crops, or possibly turn violent. A Hilltopper is suck-up student carrying some books.
8 North Carolina Tar Heels def. 9 Villanova Wildcats. There are two stories about where the term Tar Heel came from. The cooler one is that Robert E. Lee used it to describe a group of North Carolinan soldiers who were so unlikely to retreat that the only explanation was that their heels were stuck to the ground with tar. This means a Tar Heel is a Civil War soldier, which can shoot a wildcat.
5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams def. 12 Akron Zips. While the Zips use a Kangaroo as their mascot, the origin of the name Zips is actually a shoe. Zip is short for Zipper, which was the name of a popular shoe from the early 1900s that was made of rubber. Akron is the rubber capital of the world. You see the logic? A kangaroo versus a ram would have been a very interesting fight. A ram against a shoe?
2 Georgetown Hoyas vs. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. What’s a hoya? The very question could be translated as “What’s a what?” Let’s just say Georgetown’s only hope for advancing in this bracket is to play Ohio State, Harvard, or Syracuse.
10 Oklahoma Sooners def. 7 San Diego State Aztecs. This one really puts the rules to the test. Neither the Aztec nor the Sooner is inherently armed. Neither mascot is depicted with a weapon. If they could get their hands on some arms, an Aztec would be caught holding a spear while looking down the barrel of a rifle.
14 Northwestern State Demons def. 3 Florida Gators. An early favorite emerges as the Demon is going to be tough to beat. There is no origin or explanation to the demon beyond the supernatural.
6 UCLA Bruins vs 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers. If the gopher is solid gold, it is an inanimate object. If it just a golden-colored gopher, it gets eaten by the bruin.
1 Kansas Jayhawks def. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels. The Jayhawks eventually became the name of a regiment of Union soldiers in the Civil War. Not sure if the Union Jayhawks or the Confederate Tar Heels would win? I think history tells us this answer.
4 Michigan Wolverines def 5 VCU Rams. This, to me, feels like a fight between a trained fencer and a MMA brawler. The ram is incredibly powerful with what he does, but if faced with an angry wolverine, I don’t see it having much of a chance.
10 Oklahoma Sooners def. Florida GC Eagles. I might be stretching the rules here, but I think a sooner has a weapon.
14 Northwestern State Demons def. UCLA Bruins. I’m not even sure how this works. Perhaps the Demon actually possesses the Bruin, takes over its body, and becomes some sort of super-evil-Bear.
1 Kansas Jayhawks def. 4 Michigan Wolverine. That is assuming that the Jayhawk makes the first shot count. If he needs two, things could get interesting.
14 Northwestern State Demons def. Oklahoma Sooners. Even the Sooner’s rifle can’t stop the possessed bear.
Regional Final: Northwestern State Demons defeat Kansas Jayhawks. This is an unlikely pick, but I have to go with Northwestern STate to make the Final Four. I’m not sure how a Demon is going to get beaten.
16 James Madison Dukes def. 16 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. I don’t know much about Dukes (maybe I need to watch more Downton Abbey), but I’m thinking this guy could handle a blackbird.
1 Indiana Hoosiers def. 16 James Madison Dukes. The origin of the Hoosiers is clouded in mystery. There are many theories, but it seems like a Hoosier is simply someone from Indiana. A Duke, no matter their crown-wearing bulldog mascot, is a level of British royalty. Neither a Hoosier nor a Duke is inherently armed. I don’t know any Dukes. I do know a couple of Hoosiers. They are good guys, so I’m betting on them, with a touch of rule #10.
8 North Carolina State Wolfpack def. 9 Temple Owls. The Wolf Pack has a number advantage. A pack of wolves is an intimidating force. A lone owl would not stand a chance
5 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels def. 12 California Golden Bears. Despite Rule 17, I’m going with the Rebels. That is a mighty big shotgun he’s toting. And it is an even mightier mustache.
13 Montana Grizzlies def. 4 Syracuse Orange. Syracuse is an early-round exit every year. Montana is a perennial Cinderella pick.
2 Miami Hurricanes def. 15 Pacific Tigers. A Tiger is tough, but I don’t think it can stand up to the winds of a hurricane.
7 Illinois Fighting Illini def. 10 Colorado Buffaloes. This matchup has some historic roots. The Native American versus the Tatonka. The Illini win this battle, but they do so with the utmost respect. They are good stewards of the gifts the buffalo provides, and they do not put the species at risk by wasteful over-hunting.
3 Marquette Golden Eagles def. 14 Davidson Wildcats. A wildcat is not a very big animal. An Eagle would have to take more than one swipe, but I think it would wear out the wildcat.
6 Butler Bulldogs def. 11 Bucknell Bison. A Bison is 2000 pound animal with huge horns on its head. But it is usually pretty docile. A Bulldog was bred, as I said before, to hunt wild boars and bears. In the wild, a Bison doesn’t have many predators, though in my reading I found that a wolf pack could prey on one, and a single wolf has been known to take down a bison. Bison vs bulldog is a fascinating match. This cute video of bulldog puppies doesn’t paint a fierce picture of the breed, but I’m still leaning toward the bulldog.
8 North Carolina State Wolfpack def. 1 Indiana Hoosiers. Really, the hoosier doesn’t have a lot of hope in the Mascot Bracket. One student is trying to change that. This Facebook group is lobbying to change Indiana’s mascot to a Buffalo-looking creature called Howie Hoosier. It is an uphill battle. They have 19 members. Even if Indiana was this strange boxing buffalo, we have already learned that a wolf pack is a natural predator of the Buffalo.
5 UNLV Runnin Rebels def. 13 Montana Grizzlies. This Rebel better be a good shot. He took out the Cal Bear in his first game. He would have to take out the Grizzly to advance to the Sweet 16.
2 Miami Hurricanes def. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini. Severe weather systems are tough to beat. The Illini could wait it out, but it is a pretty formidable foe.
6 Butler Bulldogs def. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles. If Marquette were still the Warriors (as the CBS announcer incorrectly called them during the Selection Show), they would stand a chance, but Bulldog vs. Eagle was already decided in the Midwest Region.
8 North Carolina State Wolfpack def. 5 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. The Rebel isn’t going to be able to reload fast enough to take down a whole pack.
2 Miami Hurricanes def. 6 Butler Bulldogs. Again, it is hard to stand up to a hurricane.
Regional Final: Miami Hurricanes def. North Carolina State Wolfpack. In the last five years, 187 people in the US have been killed by hurricanes. 20 people have been killed by wolf attacks in the world since 2000. The Hurricane is clearly more dangerous to humans. While it is possible to imagine that a couple of wolves could somehow survive a hurricane, thus allowing the pack to survive, I think it’s a long shot.
13 Boise State Broncos def. 13 La Salle Explorers. The Explorer would be able to see the bronco coming from a distance, so it would not be a surprise attack. Being prepared probably wouldn’t help him much as the Bronco trampled his jaunty hat.
16 Southern Jaguars def. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. According to Bleacher Report, the bulldog is the most frequently used mascot in division one sports. By now, my admiration for the toughness if a bulldog is clear, but a jaguar can weigh up to 300 pounds. I just don’t see the bulldog standing much of a chance. My biggest wish though, is that the amazing Human Juke Box would play at halftime and form the score of the game. That would be sweet.
8 Pittsburgh Panthers def. 9 Wichita State Shockers. The Shocker mascot is a bundle of wheat that looks like the merry-go-round operator in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. A panther is a huge predatory cat that is looking ahead to an epci battle with the jaguar.
5 Wisconsin Badgers def. 12 Ole Miss Rebels. At first I thought this was a clear case of Rule 5. Then a closer look reveals that the Ole Miss Rebels is really, um, Old. He’s an old guy with a cane, not a soldier toting a rifle. The badger is a nasty little animal that clearly don’t give a care. I don’t think the cane is going to help.
13 Boise State Broncos def. 4 Kansas State Wildcats. A wild cat is really not an impressive animal. If it was a wildcat versus my garbage can lid, I’d pick the cat. I’m going with the bronco on this one.
15 Iona Gaels def. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. I hate The Ohio State University.
10 Iowa State Cyclones def. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The end result of this match might be the origin story for how the munchkins came to live in Oz.
3 New Mexico Lobos def. 14 Harvard Crimson. Colors always lose.
11 Belmont Bruins def. 6 Arizona Wildcats. Not even a close fight.
8 Pittsburgh Panthers def. 16 Southern Jaguars. Jaguars and panthers are pretty much the same animal. The difference lies in location, habitat, and color. Ties go to the higher seed.
13 Boise State Broncos def. 5 Wisconsin Badgers. I just don’t see how a little badger could take down a huge horse. I think eventually the little crazy honey badger would get trampled.
10 Iowa State Cyclones def 15 Iona Gaels. The cyclones are sticking with the Celts in the first two rounds. The Gael won’t do any better than the Fighting Irish.
11 Belmont Bruin def. New Mexico Lobos. This National Geographic video depicts a stand off between a wolf and a bear in the wild. The narrator says, the bear “can break a wolf’s back with a single swipe of her paw.” In the end, the wolves are chased off by the bear.
8 Pittsburgh Panthers def. 13 Boise State Broncos. I just don’t see the horse having enough offense to combat the ferocity of a 300 pound panther.
10 Iowa State Cyclones def. 11 Belmont Bruins. In meteorological terms, a cyclone is simple a low-pressure weather pattern of swirling clouds. In common usage though, it is used synonymously with tornado. A tornado can reach wind speeds of 300 mph, and could toss a brown bear miles in the air.
Regional Final: Iowa State Cyclone def. Pittsburgh Panthers. While survival is possible, I just don’t give the panther a real good shot of making it.
Iowa State Cyclones defeat Duke Blue Devils. Again, survival is possible if there is adequate shelter, but in the Mascot Bracket Arena, I don’t see it happening.
Miami Hurricanes defeat Northwestern State Devils. I honestly have no idea how to argue this. A weather system versus the supernatural entity is the hardest type of Mascot fight to pick. I think Rule #10 applies here as much as anything.
Miami Hurricanes defeat Iowa State Cyclones. I’m going with total destructive path on this one. A cyclone packs a higher top speed, but inflicts damage in a more precise manner. Hurricanes bring not only wind, but flood waters and affect regions with a much broader stroke. If we’re looking at the actual mascot, the angry Pelican or the strange whirling Cardinal are not going to win any intimidation contests, but that’s not what I’m looking at. I guess you could argue that this isn’t really a Mascot bracket so much as it is a nickname contest. Feel free to comment below. Just remember, in 2010 the Mascot Bracket won my yahoo group – beating picking all the favorites, Joe Lunardi, my actual picks, and President Obama. Happy March!
Also of interest – The Best College Basketball Program Without a National Championship
*Ken Burns did not actually produce the movie 300.