Tag Archives: march madness

Nothing to be “Mad” about here. Go Green. Go White.

I have a lot of fun with March Madness.  One of my most-read blogs of every year is when I pick the entire NCAA tournament based on which Mascot would win in a fight.  Its silly, a little juvenile, sometimes humorous, and hopefully informative. This story about March Madness though, is none of those things.  This is a story of an unlikely friendship.  It is about how we can be inspired by each other, and draw strength from others.  There’s a cynical part of me that gets tired of worn out cliches about sports.

The way we idolize sports figures is troubling.  Sometimes it is absolutely dangerous.  There are times I want to quit sports all together, just wash my hands of the whole dirty, bloody, idolatrous affair.  I know, however, that I can never give up sports all together.  Sports are a part of my history, my family, my very being.  Yet I get weary of the packaging of sports.  I get tired of the human interest story.  I get tired of the coach-worship.  I get tired of lazy metaphors and the emotional manipulation.  Just when I’m about to give up on believing that sports are anything more than a distraction from what really matters, I come across something like this.

So the cynic in me wonders: Is this just another fluff piece thrown together by a media outlet with an interest in showing the “good side” of sports? Is this just another attempt at making an athlete more than we ought?  Is this just another case of emotional manipulation?  It’s hard to judge how much of this video is real, and how much is good story telling.  There are two things that are undeniably true in this video.  Lacey’s struggle, and Lacey’s smile.  That’s all that matters.

All of the sudden sports have won me over again, and the Spartans have another fan.  Go Green. Go White. Go Lacey!

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Looking for a team to cheer for in March Madness?

Are you looking for a team to cheer for in March Madness this weekend?  It’s still early, so most people’s brackets are still in tact.  Maybe you don’t need extra incentive to cheer for anyone in the Big Dance, but let me suggest to you a team from the “Little Dance.”  The Division III NCAA Final Four is being held this weekend.

The women are playing in Holland, Michigan while the men are playing in Salem, Virginia.  While the big schools of Illinois went ‘ofer’ the tourney, sorry Wildcats, Illini, Salukies, Blue Demons and the like, two teams from Illinois have kept their championship dreams alive.

The Titans of Illinois Wesleyan have a team in both Final Fours (and I should add that the Titans would mop up either Final Four in a mascot bracket).  Division III athletics might not have the flash or the talent of their DI counterparts, but they mostly don’t have the agents, egos, shoe deals or point-shaving scandals either.  They also still live up the moniker student-athlete.

The Illinois Wesleyan Women have had an especially tumultuous season.  In today’s Chicago Tribune is a fabulous piece by David Haugh.  Titan head coach Mia Smith has coached the majority of this basketball season while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

According to Haugh, she started chemotherapy in December.  On December 10, the Titans record was an uncharacteristic 3-4.  In 2011, the Titans fourth loss came in late January on their way to the school’s first-ever trip to the Final Four.   In 2010, the Titans lost only two games all year.  It is hard to say why they had the difficult start, but the four teams they lost to all finished in the top 20 according to d3hoops.com.  According to some figures, the Titans faced the second toughest schedule in the nation.  When you factor in breast cancer into their list of opponents, I think it’s safe to say it was tougher than that.

Mia Smith is the all-time winningest coach at Illinois Wesleyan.  In her 14th season, Smith is at the helm of one of the dominant programs in the country (since the 06-07 season her Titans are 159-23) .  Her teams play a frenetic full-court press that she likes to call “Run and Jump.”  They shoot well, run fast, dive for loose balls, and scrap for every rebound.  They are a fun team to watch and have developed a strong fan base that well surely support them well in Holland this weekend.

Smith has had  a lot of support this season.  Chemotherapy is one of the worst things a person can endure.  I don’t know all the details, but it is basically poison that kills everything it can.  To say that it leaves people with less energy is like saying a marathon is a light stroll.  Coaching basketball is a high-energy profession.  Clearly the Titans have fed off of her strength, but according to her she has fed off of her player’s strength as well.

She told David Haugh “People have thanked me for being a good role model for these young ladies as I endured hardship, but I’m telling you, it’s the other way around.  All I had to do was think of how hard those girls work at practice, and that was all the inspiration I needed to get up.”

So tonight as you’re following the madness on four different national cable networks plus highlights on the ESPN family, can I suggest one more team to support?  They aren’t on any of the brackets you filled out, but they’re worth a moment or two.  Drop by this site to watch the games.  There won’t be any agents or NBA scouts.  There will be eight teams playing their hearts out and a few thousand loyal fans hoping to witness their own one shining moment.

There will be one coach that has stared down cancer, and a team that has carried her through it.  I’ve said it before, but tonight with my computer on my lap as a I agonize over every basket while switching between games, it will never be more true.  I’m proud to be a Titan.

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The 2012 Mascot Bracket

Iowa State Cyclones have a pretty formidable mascot. It is really hard to beat a weather system, even if it is some strange tornado-bird hybrid.

The 2013 Mascot Bracket

Filling out the bracket is one of my favorite annual events.  I’ve been filling out brackets for over 25 years.  In all my years of filling out brackets, I’ve only won a group once.  I stopped doing pay-for-play brackets many years ago, but I did finish in the money once when I was a kid.  The only time I’ve ever won a group was in 2010, when my Mascot Bracket beat about 30 other submissions in my free yahoo group.  Among the submissions were President Obama’s and Joe Lunardi, the man who coined the term “bracketology.”

What is the Mascot Bracket?  It is simple: pick the winners of the entire NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament based solely on which mascot would win in a fight.  To accomplish this task, I have come up with some rules.  The 2012 bracket has the first major rule change.  In the past, I used a simple food-chain style set of rules which placed weather systems at the top.  I’ve decided to make a change, so that the rules form more of a rocks-paper-scissors format.

Do you think you can do better than The Mascot Bracket?  Then join this free yahoo group.

Click here for a pdf version of the Mascot Bracket.

The rules

      1. Inanimate objects, e.g. colors and plants, always lose to animate objects.
      2. Predators beat non-predators and unarmed humans.
      3. Humans beat non-predators.
      4. Humans with weapons beat predators.
      5. Humans with weapons beat humans without weapons.
      6. Humans with superior weapons/training win.
      7. Supernatural beings and killer weather systems defeat human warriors.
      8. Many animals, especially birds and fish, can survive devastating storms.
      9. Ties go to the high seed.
      10. Prepositions lose to everything. (See explanation of What’s a Hoya)

17.  Don’t turn your back on bears.

South Region (Atlanta)

First Round

Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils def. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.  We start right off the bat with two unique mascots.  The Hilltopper’s Big Red is perhaps the most mysterious mascot of them all.  He looks like the love-child of the Red M&M and Ronald McDonald’s best friend. At first, I thought a hilltopper was going to be some sort of military guy – someone like Teddy Roosevelt reaching the top of San Juan Hill.  I was wrong. The only explanation I can come up with for the name “Hilltopper” is that the school, in Bowling Green, is a beautiful hilltop campus.     A Delta Devil is some sort of demonic creature that I presume comes from the Mississippi Valley.  The school’s website doesn’t give a lot of help.  Western Kentucky’s Big Red really defies all the rules. I suppose the only category it can fall into is the non-predatory animal.  The Delta Devil looks like it will be pretty tough to beat, even in that fancy green cape.

Second Round

(16) Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils def. (1) Kentucky Wildcats.  A game like this just makes me shake my head and consider instituting a No. 1 seed exemption.  Seriously, No. 16 seeds are 0-108 in the history of the tournament, and I already know I’m picking at least two to win this year.  This Delta Devil is going to be tough to beat.

(8) Iowa State Cyclones def. (9) Connecticut Huskies.  This is kind of sad to think about, but I just don’t see how a Huskie stands up to a Cyclone.

These two look like cousins to me.

(12) Virginia Commonwealth Rams def. (5) Wichita State Shockers.  A Shocker is basically a walking shock of wheat that has a Lady Elaine-like profile.  When you get down to it, a Shocker is just a pile of grass.  Even if you go back to the mascot’s roots, which paid homage to the fact that many Wichita State students shocked wheat as a summer job, I don’t think their heads would be hard enough to take out  a ram.

(12) New Mexico State Aggies def. (5) Indiana Hoosiers.  A few years ago New Mexico State really hurt its own chances in the mascot bracket by giving the guy in their logo a lasso instead of a six-shooter.  Fortunately for the Aggies, a Hoosier is just a person from Indiana.  While I found this pretty interesting explanation for the etymology of the word Hoosier, it really doesn’t help their cause.

(2) Duke Blue Devils def. (15) Lehigh Mountain Hawks.  The Blue Devils are a perennial power in the Mascot Bracket (see 2010).  At first glance, they seem to be a supernatural entity, bound for an epic clash against the Delta Devil in later rounds.  After doing some research a couple of years ago though, I found that the Blue Devils are named for a squadron of French military made famous in World War I.  A soldier shoots any kind of hawk, even a  mountain one.

(10) Xavier Musketeers def. (7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  This is actually a fight that I could imagine happening.  Couldn’t you just imagine a hard-nosed Irishmen’s reaction if this guy walked into a pub.  He would certainly pick a fight.  Unfortunately for Patty though, the Musketeer would have a musket (or he would be known as something else).  Unless the Fighting Irish start the fight with a sucker punch (which isn’t beyond the realm of imagination), the Musketeer wins.

(3) Baylor Bears def. (14) South Dakota State Jackrabbits.  This one wouldn’t really be a fight.  It would just be a snack.

(6) UNLV Runnin’ Rebels def. (11) Colorado Buffaloes.  A man out west with a gun versus a buffalo.  I think history has taught us how this one ends up.

Third Round

Iowa State Cyclones def. Mississippi Valley Delta Devils.  This is an epic match-up.  A super-natural entity against a killer weather system.  I’m going with the Cyclone because it is a real thing and they are the higher seed.

New Mexico State Aggies def. VCU Rams.  A look at the Aggies official site reveals that farmer is still packin’ steal.  That means Ram stew.

Duke Blue Devils def. Xavier Musketeers.  Rule 6 – Superior weapons.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels def. Baylor Bears.  Rule 5 – Human with weapon.

Regional Semis and Finals

Iowa State Cyclones def. New Mexico State Aggies.  Duke Blue Devils def. Runnin’ Rebels.  Iowa State punches their ticket to New Orleans by blowing past the Blue Devils.

West Region (Phoenix)

First Round

The Iona Gaels have a mascot that is “spunky” and “is consistent with the school motto ‘fight the good fight'” (from the official website)

Iona Gaels def. BYU Cougars.  In my real bracket, I’m picking Iona to be this year’s VCU.  That probably means they’ll get beat by the Jimmerless Cougars.  In the mascot bracket, that little club is enough to fight off the cougar (okay, maybe its a little Scotch-Irish bias, but I’m a McCoy!).

Second Round

(1)Michigan State Spartans def. (16) LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.  This time the No. 1 seed cruises.

This statue sits on the campus of Saint Louis University. Reminds me of that old SNL skit, “You put your… in there”

(8) Memphis Tigers def. (9) Saint Louis Billikens.  A Billiken is basically a chochtky (sp?).  It’s a made-up good luck charm that some lady dreamed of 100 years ago.  Weird, right?  Picture a tiger – a huge, ferocious tiger – fighting the old troll key chain you had in high school.  Not much of a fight, is it?

(12) Long Beach State 49ers def. (5) New Mexico Lobos.  First of all, I love the fact that Long Beach State’s uniforms read simply “The Beach” across their chest.  That doesn’t help them much in this fight against a wolf.  What does help them is the giant pick ax this dude is carrying.

(13) Davidson Wildcats def. (4) Louisville Cardinals.  I’m not really sure how this fight would go down, but I don’t see a Cardinal being able to mount much of an offense.  Does Steph Curry have any eligibility left?

(15) Norfolk State Spartans def. (2) Missouri Tigers.  I would really like to make the case for the Tigers here, but if this Mascot Bracket is going to have any integrity, I have to go with the armed and well-trained Spartan (plus, Michigan State vs. Memphis is coming in the next round of this region, and I assume your memory is long enough to notice if I am inconsistent here).

(10) Virginia Cavaliers def. (7) Florida Gators.  I’m not sure if a sword is enough to take on a Gator, but if Swamp People has taught me anything, it has taught me that Gators can be manhandled by anybody (BTW, Swamp People hasn’t taught me anything).

(14) Iona Gaels def. (3) Marquette Golden Eagles.  Rule 4 – human with a weapon.

(6) Murray State Racers def. (11) Colorado State Rams.  This is a genuinely difficult one to judge, but the Murray State Racer is a thoroughbred horse.  I could probably be swayed, but I think a horse is just too powerful.

Third Round

Michigan State Spartans def. Memphis Tigers.  See the previous round – Norfolk State over Missouri.

Long Beach State 49ers def. Davidson Wildcats. Again, the man with the pick axe takes out the overgrown cat.

Norfolk State Spartans def. Virginia Cavaliers.

Murray State Racers def. Iona Gaels.  This is an exception to rule 4.  I just don’t see that shillelagh being enough against the thousand pound horse.

Regional Semis and Finals

Michigan State Spartans def. Long Beach State 49ers.  The Spartans were some of the greatest warriors in history.  The 49ers were some guys hoping to score a gold nugget.  It would be a massacre.  The Norfolk State Spartans def. the Murray State Racers.  Again, Spartans are bad-asses.  Finally, Michigan State Spartans def. the Norfolk State Spartans because ties go to the higher seed.

East Region (Boston)

Second Round

(16) UNC Asheville Bulldogs def. (1) Syracuse Orange.  At least when Syracuse was the Orange Men, they had a fighting chance.  Now that they’re just a color, they kill my mascot bracket every year.

(9) Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles def. (8) Kansas State Wildcats.  Air-ground battles are the hardest to decide.  It’s hard to imagine how this fight would even work, but I’m not sure how the wildcat would be able to mount an offense.  Eagles are pretty powerful birds, and wildcats are not very big.  A couple of good strikes at 80 mph would probably do it.

(5) Vanderbilt Commodores def. (12) Harvard Crimson.  People love picking the Ivy League upset, but I don’t see it happening.  This has already been established.  Colors lose to everything.

(13) Montana Grizzlies def. (4) Wisconsin Badgers.  Badgers are mean, but one would not stand a chance against an 800 pound grizzly bear.

(15) Loyola (MD) Greyhounds def. (2) Ohio State Buckeye.  Remember when I said that colors lose to everything?  So do plants.  This region is killing me.

(10) West Virginia Mountaineers def. (7) Gonzaga Bulldogs.  Mountaineers usually go pretty far in this bracket, largely due to the large beard, I mean shotgun, this guy is sporting.

(3) Florida State Seminoles def. (13) St. Bonaventure Bonnies.  The Bonnies have gone through several different mascots over the years.  They have settled on the Bona-Wolf.   A Seminole could kill a wolf.

(11) Texas Longhorn def. (6) Cincinnati Bearcats.  Bearcats are also known as Binturongs, which I think is a much cooler mascot name.  They are tough little creatures, and a match against a Badger would be interesting.  A match against a Longhorn would just be cruel.

Third Round

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles def. UNC Asheville Bulldogs.  If an eagle can beat a wildcat, it could beat a poor bulldog too.

Vanderbilt Commodores def. Montana Grizzlies.  While a matchup between a Grizzly and The Commodores would be brutal, but I don’t think that is the kind of Commodore we’re talking about.

West Virginia Mountaineers def. Loyola (MD)Greyhounds.  Rule 4 – human with weapon.

Florida State Seminoles def. Texas Longhorns.  Again, rule 4.

Regional Semis and Finals

Vanderbilt Commodores def. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.  Florida State Seminoles def. West Virginia Mountaineers.  I feel like I might be getting into hostile and abusive territory here, so I’ll forgo more explanation, and just put Vanderbilt into the Final Four.

Midwest Region (Saint Louis)

First Round

Vermont Catamounts def. Lamar Cardinals.  In case you were wondering, a cardinal is a little red bird that is quite popular in the midwest.  I’m pretty sure the big wild cat would eat it.

California Golden Bears def. South Florida Bulls.  This would be a devastatingly violent affair.  This is all about rule 17.

Second Round

(1) North Carolina Tar Heels def. (16) Vermont Catamounts.  The Tar Heel name is the stuff of legend, but according to the UNC website, it started during the Civil War and refers either to the North Carolina soldiers’ stubborn ability to stand and fight, as if they had tar on their heels; or was a slur used to make fun of the poor and dirty soldiers that made tar.  For the purposes of the Mascot Bracket, I’m going with civil war soldier.

(9) Alabama Crimson Tide def. (8) Creighton Blue Jays.  The Crimson Tide pose an interesting problem.  Are they a weather-like mascot – like the tide rolling in?  Are they just a color?  Or are they elephants?  If they are the tide rolling in, a blue jay could wait that out easily.  If they are a color, then the animate bird wins.  I’m going with elephant.  Roll Tide.

(12) California Golden Bears def. (5) Temple Owls.  Do I really need to explain this?

(4) Michigan Wolverine def. (13) Ohio Bobcats. My gut is with Hugh Jackman.  This website concurs.

(15) Detroit Titans def. (2) Kansas Jayhawks.  The Titans ruled the world before the Greek gods defeated them.  They are also guys that look a lot like Spartans when turned into mascots.  Jayhawks, besides looking a lot like a Foghorn Leg-horn, actually have a pretty interesting history.   According to the school website, the Jayhawk refered to pioneers in Kansas that bugged other pioneers, notably from Nebraska.  As Kansas moved toward statehood, there was quite a public debate over whether Kansas would be a free or a slave state.  Ruffians on both sides of this battle were dubbed “Jayhawkers” and were known to rob, vandalize, sack, set fire to, and steal horses from the other side.  In time, the Jayhawks referred mainly to the free-staters.  So, that is a very long-winded way to determine that the true meaning of Jayhawk is not a stupid little bird, but a 1850s thug that was against slavery. Pretty cool, yes.  Able to defeat a Greek god?  I don’t think so.

This Gael is significantly different and more formidable than the Iona Gael.

(7) St. Mary’s Gaels def. (10) Purdue Boilermakers.  The Boilermaker has a big hammer, but this version of the Gael is in full armor.

(14) Belmont Bruin def. (3) Georgetown Hoyas.  And now, my annual explanation of Rule 10.  You might be asking yourself, “What’s a Hoya?”  Well, that is a question that Georgetown opponents have been chanting for decades.  Wikipedia gives us the answer – it appears to have come from a chant, “Roxa Hoya,” which is loosely translated from Latin to “such rocks.”  Hoya is basically Latin for “Such as.”  So, if you’re using that – I think we finally found the only mascot that would lose to the Orange or the Buckeyes – a preposition.  Yet, their mascot is a bulldog.  A bulldog could be tough, but not against a Bruin (Rule 17).

(11) North Carolina State Wolfpack def. (6) San Diego State Aztecs.  I am so tempted to insert a clip from The Hangover here, but it is kind of vulgar, so I won’t.  Just google “one man wolfpack” for a laugh.  The truth is, if NC State were a one-man wolfpack, the Aztecs could win.  I’m assuming its an actual pack, and  this statue confirms this.

Third Round

North Carolina Tar Heels def. Alabama Crimson Tide.  This is a tough call, but I’m invoking rule 4.

California Golden Bears def. Michigan Wolverines.  Sorry Red Dawn, Rule 17 strikes again.

St. Mary’s Gaels def. Detroit Titans. This is the mascot the Titans use.  Have you seen Full Metal Jousting?  That stuff is insane.  I’m going with the guy in full armor.

NC State Wolfpack def. Belmont Bruins.  Bears are tough, but a whole pack of wolves would never have to turn its back.

Regional Semis and Finals

North Carolina Tar Heels def. California Golden Bears.  Rule 4. St Mary’s Gaels def. NC State Wolfpack.  Rule 4, plus the armor would go a long way in fighting off wolf bites.  North Carolina Tar Heels def. St. Mary’s Gaels.  I don’t think the armor would stop the bullet.

Final Four (New Orleans)

Iowa State Cyclones def. Michigan State Spartans.

North Carolina Tar Heels def. Vanderbilt Commodores.  This is a tough one.  The Commodore outranks the Tar Heel, but that doesn’t mean he’s tougher.  I’ll take the hardened Civil War vet in a fight.

Iowa State Cyclones def. North Carolina Tar Heel.  The Tar Heel might stick in the mud, but it wouldn’t be enough to stand against a cyclone.

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2011 Mascot Bracket

2010 Mascot Bracket

2009 Mascot Bracket

Also of interest – The Best College Basketball Program Without a National Championship


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