Tulsa, OK-Jay from Kansas knows Oklahoma well, he spent this season beating up on every mascot the OK state had to offer. A hybrid of the bluejay and sparrow hawk, he’s loud enough to get your attention, and fast enough to snatch whatever he wants. And let’s face it, dogs are easily distracted. Boston’s Terrier will never see it coming.
Tulsa, OK-Technically, Chief Illiniwek retired as Illinois’ mascot in 2007, but with no replacement they leave me no choice. The school adopted the Fighting Illini nickname to honor their WWI vets, so make the mascot a Doughboy already! That should keep all the pacifists in Champaign busy. I’m sure the politically correct crowd will be gunning for UNLV’s mascot next, but he’ll have plenty of time to plan his defense since nobody’s going to show up for this fight.
WINNER: Runnin’ Rebels
Denver, CO-Something tells me a Commodore isn’t the type to shriek and run away when he sees one, or even five spiders on the wall. Even though Vandy’s Mr. C is getting up there in years, you can see he still has arachnid-smashing guns…if that is what Richmond’s Spidey is supposed to represent. Should somebody tell them spiders have eight legs, no? But even with a full complement of appendages, Spidey wouldn’t be able to count the number of beatings he’s about to catch.
Denver, CO-The cardinal: a tiny, seed eating passerine (perching bird) native to North and South America. The eagle: a large, flesh-eating raptor with a sharp beak and powerful talons. Can 13 Louisville Cardinals benefit from a better than three-to-one advantage? Only if they bring Louisville Sluggers. Morehead State’s Beaker will rip the Red Birds to shreds.
Chicago, IL-A Georgetown Hoya is a dog, and a VCU Ram just looks like one. What’s a Hoya? Apparently the nickname derived from a Greek/Latin hybrid chant, “Hoya Saxa!” which was popular on campus around the turn of the 20th Century. This is why members of the Classics Club shouldn’t be allowed to congregate in public. The Rams will be outnumbered almost two-to-one, but they’ll be well rested since they only have to travel from Dayton. The booksmart Hoyas would be wise to not even show up, but either way they’re going down.
Chicago, IL–Saint Peter’s nicknamed themselves the Peacocks upon reopening in 1930. The peacock is a Christian symbol for resurrection. In nature, the peacock (male) displays his plumage to impress the peahen (female). In nature, Rowdy, the Purdue Boilermaker, is more impressed with good caulk than good plumage. He and 13 of his buddies could take this one half-cocked. (That’s right, I just used the word cock–or caulk–in five different sentences without ONCE slipping into the gutter. My momma must be reeeeeeeal proud.)
Chicago, IL–A&M’s original mascot was almost named road kill. Reveille I was a stray mutt that got hit by a car full of partying cadets in 1931. She survived, they felt sorry for her and they took her back to campus. She was named after the famous bugle call because she howled along with it and busted her newfound caretakers. Surely cadets have improved their ability to sneak bitches into their rooms, but there’s no way a bunch of collies will sneak by Darth Maul’s cousin, FSU’s Chief Osceola.
Chicago, IL-Too bad this isn’t a straight up match because both mascots have a reputation for boxing. Akron’s Zippy the Kangaroo would have a distinct advantage because Notre Dame’s Leprechaun did his best fighting last night at the bars. But with 14 of his Guiness-swilling mates to back him up, these Leprechauns are going to pull that marsupial’s pouch over its head and beat it like a bodhran.
WINNER: Fighting Irish
Oh look, it’s a bracket with no play-in game. What a novel concept…
Charlotte, NC-How long do you think it’ll be before one of these pirate mascots starts looking like Captain Jack Sparrow? The Outer Banks are no stranger to pirate shenanigans, but every pirate knows they have to come ashore if they want to pillage. Hampton’s Pirate is no exception. When he gets to Duke’s backyard, though, I’d give 15 Blue Devils the day off and still like my chances. Hope the Pirate is prepared to meet Davey Jones…Yaaarrr.
WINNER: Blue Devils
Charlotte, NC-It’s no wonder Tennessee chose Smokey, a bluetick coonhound, to represent the Volunteer image. Dogs will sign up for anything: seeing-eye, drug sniffing, bomb sniffing, butt sniffing…you name it. They’re like a teenager with a skateboard, camcorder, rooftop and an unhealthy Red Bull habit, “Just point me to the danger, bro.” Well, the danger is that angry little fuzzball to the left that doesn’t like his picture taken. In fact, I bet that Michigan Wolverine doesn’t like anything, especially a hound sniffing and drooling all around his sweet bachelor burrow. There’s gonna be a lot of whining on the way back to Rocky Top.
Tulsa, OK-You gotta give Pouncer of Memphis some credit: he knows he’s outnumbered; he knows he’s in unfamiliar territory; he knows he’s gotta create a diversion…why not run around with no pants on? That’s what I would do. Plus, with a handful of college towns in between Tuscon and Tulsa, there’s no doubt Wilbur Wildcat’s pack is going to embark on an epic bender out from under his wife’s, Wilma, watchful eye. The average tiger outweighs the average wildcat at least two-to-one, negating Arizona’s advantage. I like Pouncer’s odds.
Tulsa, OK-The Texas Longhorns know Tulsa real well since it’s just a short right turn off the Chisolm Trail. Oakland’s Grizzly might be lost anywhere away from home since he probably spends most of his time explaining where home is. “Oh, you’re from Oakland? I love the Bay Area.”
“No, actually I’m from Rochester, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.”
“So why are you called Oakland University then?”
“Funny you should ask…ummm, do you hear that rumble?”
“Do you see that giant dust cloud coming towards us?”
Washington, DC-Cincinnati’s Bearcats should be right at home in DC given their propensity for criminal activity. Eleven bearcats might not be as big as one tiger, but Cincy ought to pull in to town before Missouri is even half way there. That’s plenty of time to lobby Capital Hill for refugee status, or blackmail a senator who’s got a thing for interns. Truman and his crew won’t even know what hit ’em.
Washington, DC-The bison. Stoic giants of the plains. Majestic beast of legend. A bigger, leaner and tastier version of the cow, a fact not lost on Ted Turner or Jonathan, UConn’s Husky. You would certainly expect a pack of wolves to take down a bison, so why its closest relative. Bucknell’s Bucky Bison: it’s what’s for dinner.
Tucson, AZ-Is it just me, or does Penn State’s Nittany Lion look homeless? At least somebody gave him a scarf. Since Temple is also in Pennsylvania, both of these mascots have quite a roadie to Arizona. As if a 2,000 plus mile trek isn’t bad enough, it’s also a day game, which isn’t going to work out good for the nocturnal owls. Looks like the Nittany Lions will have some owl feathers to help keep him warm during those State College winters.
WINNER: Nittany Lions
Tucson, AZ-This one is as lopsided as the numbers indicate. The Bears have to saunter all the way to Southern Arizona from Northern Colorado, only to find 15 Aztec Warriors from San Diego waiting for them. The Aztecs already had Eagle and Jaguar Warriors in their military hierarchy, now they can add the bear.
I don’t know what I hate more: this expanded play-in format or the UAB Blazers. Back when the play-in was a 16 seed there was no way either mascot would beat a #1, so there was nothing to worry about. But now we’ve got frickin’ 12’s and 13’s that actually might have a shot, like when five Blazers take on 12 Mountaineers. Those damn dragons from Birmingham (not the one in England, ironically) screw up my bracket every time they get in because all the knight schools are so frickin’ weak…yeah, I’m looking at you Rutgers. I put the Buckeyes over them in the Sweet 16 through rationalizations like: Brutus has a 12-to-1 advantage; Newark, NJ is still chilly this time of year (dragons are reptiles, aren’t they?); and even though a buckeye nut is technically inedible, everybody prefers their nuts roasted, right?
Get it right next year, NCAA. Blacklist the bracket-killing Blazers!
Cleveland, OH-Those Roadrunners from San Antonio already entered unfamiliar territory a couple of days ago when they sprinted into Dayton to snack on some Hornets. Now Rowdy has to wander further into Buckeye territory and his reward…16 inedible, anthropomorphic nuts staring him right in the face (see photo above). You had a good run, Rowdy…pun intended.
Cleveland, OH-Looking for Gunston, that green Elmo knockoff that pranced all over our better judgement when George Mason made that Final Four run back in 2006? Yeah, well, “The Patriot,” that Benjamin Martin–William Wallace hybrid pictured above, took care of that problem…you know…Mel Gibson-style. If he’s willing to put down one of his own, and he gets a one mascot advantage over Will D. Cat from ‘Nova? “Freeeeeeeeeeeedooooooooooooom!”
Tampa, FL-Well, Clemson definitely gets the shorter commute, but by the time this dirty dozen hunting party of Mountaineers descends from West Virginia they’ll be itchin’ to collect some tiger pelts to go with those coon-skin hats. (I know a tiger pelt would clash with that tassled, mountain man get-up, but are you gonna tell him that?)
Tampa, FL-Everybody knows a tiger would kick the cat piss out of any other member of the feline family, and the wildcat is no exception. (*sniff, sniff* Anybody else smell that ammonia?) But, Kentucky is much closer to Tampa than Princeton, so that quartet of tigers is already going to be fatigued when they square off with a baker’s dozen-worth of wildcats. With better than a three-to-one advantage, those wily wildcats will prove too much for those majestic, old tigers.
Cleveland, OH-Everybody pictures musketeers as the Frenchy, Musketeers of the Guard, that would take any man in a sword fight and look good doing it. Xavier’s D’Artagnan is modeled after that stereotype. But, musketeers were more commonly regiments of soldiers outfitted with muskets. I know we should introduce these Francophiles to duck blinds and ten-gauge shotguns, but when a half dozen Golden Eagles from Marquette practically fly right into Xavier’s (Cincinnati, OH) backyard, they’ll know what to do with those muskets.
Cleveland, OH-This is the battle of the identity crises. Syracuse dropped the “men” from Orangemen back in 2004 because they wanted to distance themselves from a controversial Protestant group in Northern Ireland with the same name. Yeah, like anybody was going to mix them up with a school in central New York. What really happened is they were probably feeling some internal pressure from a gaggle of sexually repressed feminists that infest every college, and they caved the same way they did when they axed the Saltine Warrior back in ’78. Spineless, just like an orange. Sycamore Sam from Indiana State is supposed to be a “happy forest creature.” What?! After how many happy forest mushrooms? I’d like to eliminate both of these disgraceful mascots, but I guess you could beat the happy out of most forest creatures with a 14-count bag of citrus.
Charlotte, NC-Is it just me, or does Harry the Husky look like the love child of a bear and Martin Scorsese? Washington might be bringing superior numbers, but Georgia clearly holds the geographic advantage. What to do when confronted with such a stalemate? Consult YouTube, of course. Despite the size disadvantage, the bulldog lands a ton of body shots while making all sorts of noise to keep the judges attention. The husky did get in a couple of good jabs towards the end of the round, but the judges award the match to the bulldog in a tight decision.
Charlotte, NC-Does anybody like blackbirds? They’re ugly, noisy and are always picking the entrails out of road kill. Nice choice Long Island. Does anybody know what a Tar Heel is? It either refers to the traditional tar and turpentine industry in Carolina, or the reluctance of soldiers from North Carolina to retreat in the Civil War. How that evolves into a Ram with some tar on his mitts, only UNC could answer. Regardless, feathers will fly when this pair of blackbirds fly into Rameses’ territory.
Winner: Tar Heels
Yeah, I know the NCAA would like us to call this the first round, but c’mon. We all know it’s still a play-in no matter how many mediocre teams they let in (68…and counting).
On to the matchups:
Dayton, OH-As with all the play-in pairings, the Bulldogs from North Carolina-Asheville and the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock will face off mano y mano…make that mano y perro. The Bulldog should pull into town first, but that won’t be an advantage against the road-weary Trojan warrior looking for a meal and a bed. Something tells me he won’t be above eating dog…
Dayton, OH-It kills me when UAB gets in the tourney because there isn’t much out there that can beat a dragon, especially in a heads up fight. I mean, have you seen Reign of Fire? (If you haven’t, don’t) I was hoping for a cold snap to roll through Ohio to keep this reptile under wraps, but highs in the mid 50’s isn’t what the doctor ordered. Besides, now Blaze will have a Clemson Tiger pelt to help keep the core temp up.
Dayton, OH-Did Tim Burton design Alabama State’s mascot? Anyway, even though the Hornet gets the shorter commute, and Rowdy (the Roadrunner) will have to leave his traditional stomping grounds to get to Dayton, he still brings the advantage: The Roadrunner (Geococcyx) is the only natural predator of the spider-killing tarantula hawk wasp; hornets are part of the wasp family; Conclusion: That hornet better check his rear view while buzzing up I-75.
Dayton, OH-You’ve heard of the lion laying down with the lamb, but VCU‘s Rodney the Ram looks like a dog laid down with a lamb downstream from the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant. Regardless, Tommy Trojan has probably slain stranger beasts during his odyssey, so count on that nice, shiny sword getting a little stained.