Apparently there’s a basketball tournament in March that lots of people care about. This is a foreign concept to me because my interest in basketball is about on par with my interest in competitive swimming. The rules of both are pretty simple and I’m sure the athletes are incredible, but I’m miserable at both and can’t get into the hype.
One of the attractions of so-called “March Madness” is the wide variety of teams represented, including teams that traditionally don’t get much attention or love. I mean, who has ever heard of Austin Peay State University? Another attraction is that basketball is apparently way more unpredictable than football or baseball, so there is always a chance for a major upset. Due to these factors, creation of a bracket in which you pick which teams will make it through each round and to the final is a popular pastime among basketball fans and commanders-in-chief of the largest military in the world.
So, a few years back, I decided I would make a bracket. However, given that I know more about kobe beef than Kobe Bryant and that Lebron reminds me more of the nickname we had for my high school spanish teacher than an athlete, I knew I’d fail miserably at picking winners. Most of my knowledge of basketball comes from the movie Space Jam and I’ve always said if they included more aliens or cartoons I’d be way more into the sport. It was in pondering this that I realized mascots are kinda like alien cartoons that represent each team. Hence, the inspiration for my bracket, in which I picked my favorite mascot from each matchup. I had so much fun that year that I’ve continued to make one each year that I can be bothered to care. So, you’re probably wondering what the methodology is behind my choice of which mascot wins each matchup. Well, it’s a healthy mix of appreciation for obscurity, uniqueness, and a ton of personal bias, as well as tiredness since I quickly scrawled it at about 1 a.m. when I was waiting for code to compile last night. I try to go off just the concept of the mascot, but in case of ties, I go look up the actual mascot image and the character mascot that actually attends games.
I though it’d be fun to share my thinking with you, so here’s the beginning of what will hopefully grow to cover every game in the tournament. I wrote all this during my lunch break at work. I’ll update it as I have time and will write additional posts for each round of the tournament.
First round matchups
Kansas Jayhaws vs Austin Peay Governors
I’m not entirely sure what a Jayhawk is, but I know well what a governor is. I also know that this governor, a monopoly man of your nightmares, could handle any bird that attempted to cross him. He’s a robber baron who looks like he’s been taxidermied for preservation until the end of time. Gotta give it to Austin Peay here.
Colorado Buffaloes vs Connecticut Huskies
Huskies are pretty majestic animals. With cool blue eyes and the ability to pull a sled for miles, they have a strong argument here. Also, if they were in a pack, they could probably pull down the mightiest of buffalo. That said, there’s never been a movie made about a wild west cowboy riding on a husky. I’ve also had the opportunity to actually see Ralphie the Buffalo in person. He wasn’t the most intimidating animal ever, a trait that seems to be shared among Ralphies. However, it was probably because I was like 30 rows back. When it comes down to it, despite the fact that many Huskies can probably see Russia from their front porch, Buffalo are just more American…and that’s something I can get behind.
Maryland Terrapins vs South Dakota State Jackrabbits
This was one of the hardest choices from round 1, as Terrapins and Jackrabbits are both pretty awesome. It’s hard to believe how intimidating a land-turtle can look. Really, Terrapins have everything going for them here. They’re durable, can live for decades, and share their name with a great beer company. However, despite what Aesop would have you believe, slow and steady does not always win the race. This is basketball, and I’ve yet to see a terrapin make a fast break. Despite their intention and capability to climb through the ranks, I’m going to have to put up a turtle fence on this one and give it to the Jackrabbits. South Dakota doesn’t really have much else going for it anyway.
California Golden Bears vs Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Some choices are hard, and others are Rainbow Warriors. I mean, both of these teams had a chance to make a somewhat lame, generic mascot awesome with a simple choice of color. Gold is a strong choice, especially when the economy is tanking. However, how does that even begin to hold a candle to the entire visible light spectrum? UC Berkeley, you think you’re so special because you get to be “California” and don’t have to live with your UC-something name. Well, sorry, but this time you got the hell ROYGBIV’d out of you.
Arizona Wildcats vs Wichita State Shockers
I’m a cat person, so every cat in this tournament gets bonus points just for being a cat. However, the wildcats had no idea what was coming with the Wichita State Shocker. I mean, look at that guy. He’s a redneck in a sweater with stalks of wheat for hair. He’s a child of the corn that scares you away from walking the farm fields after dark. Not convinced? Well, check out the actual mascot. I was planning on not bringing them in unless there was a need for a tie-breaker, but what do you even do with that guy? After this performance, Wichita State is a strong contender for the final.
Miami Hurricanes vs Buffalo Bulls
I have to say I was a bit torn here. I really want Miami to win because mere bulls can’t survive against the force of a hurricane. My favorite college football coach also just went to Miami, so it’s got a lot going for it. However, I can never get over the fact that they have a dumb U for their logo. Everyone you play in every sport is also a university, Miami. You are generic, and I can’t ever forgive you for that. That said, I don’t have to like you for you to win (ironic, isn’t it?), and thankfully you’ve got another mascot. He’s a weird looking Ibis with a sailor hat on, but he’ll have to do.
Iowa Hawkeyes vs Temple Owls
I live in Georgia, and it seems like every other college in the state has the owls as their mascot (hootie hoo!). For this reason, I’m predisposed to dislike owls as mascots. However, when put up against a Hawkeye, it’s much more appealing. There’s really not a great choice here. Both are large birds. Owls are creepy because they can turn their heads around and make pellets of their meals. Hawks and their eyes are much cooler and sleeker and kinda more terrifying. It’s a toss-up, really. In those cases, I must turn to the mascot’s look. The Owls’ main logo is much more intimidating than the Hawkeyes‘, so they pulled out into the lead. However, a little more Googling sealed the deal for Iowa. Temple made a strong attempt with a terrifying yet constipated mascot, but Iowa…oh Iowa. This is the stuff of nightmares. Also, for anyone who wants to argue with me, I give you this and drop the mic as I walk away full of shame for what was once a great Temple.
Villanova Wildcats vs UNC Ashville Bulldogs
I went to UGA. We are the Bulldogs. No one else gets to be them and succeed. Seriously, do you really want to throw these poor excuses for bulldogs at me? I didn’t think so. Also, cats > dogs. End of story.
Oregon Ducks vs Holy Cross Crusaders
This one was really tough. I’m a huge Oregon fan, and it’s pretty much entirely because of their colors and their mascot Puddles, who totally destroyed that Houston Cougar in a fight. That said, it’s hard to vote against the Holy Cross Crusaders. Ducks are definitely among the lamest birds and would normally be an automatic defeat against a foe that strong. I can’t let personal preference and a single fight sway me. Crusade on.
St. Joseph’s Hawks vs Cincinnati Bearcats
Hawks are cool, but this is a bearcat. Also, the Cincinnati logo looks kinda like the Chick-fil-a logo, which is a win in my book. Also, Cincinnati is hard to spell. Any questions?
Baylor Bears vs Yale Bulldogs
As previously stated, I can’t get behind any bulldog that isn’t named Uga. To their credit, Yale’s bulldog is definitely much cuter than Ashville’s, though. The Baylor Bears take this one. Maybe if Yale had a beardog we could talk.
Duke Blue Devils vs University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks
I used to know someone who swam for UNC Wilmington. I feel like if this was a swimming competition the Seahawks would have an advantage, because they have sea in their name. However, it’s a basketball competition, and Blue Devils just sounds like a basketball team that will destroy you. Also, any formerly religiously-affiliate school that ironically uses satanic imagery as their mascot is probably not someone to mess with (looking at you Wake Forest. Sorry Seahawks. You don’t exist anyway, though, so I’m sure you won’t mind.
Texas Longhorns vs University of Northern Iowa Panthers
This was another tough one, mostly because longhorns and panthers are both kinda lame mascots. However, it became easier when I did some research and found out that panthers are like seahawks in that they don’t exist. A panther is just a dark color variant of a cougar, leopard, or jaguar. It’s basically the opposite of albino. Also, if you’ve never actually seen a longhorn, it’s a pretty majestic animal. They’re not kidding about the horn length. The final straw was the UNI panther logo and the panther himself. The logo kinda sucks and the panther looks too much like Snagglepuss.
Texas A&M Aggies vs the University of Wisconsin Greenbay Phoenix
I’m sure many of you are thinking “He can’t pick the phoenix because it doesn’t exist.” Sorry friends, but if you’re looking for consistent rules then you’ve come to the wrong place. You see, while seahawks are just lame fake birds and panthers are just a variant of jaguars, phoenix are legendary creatures that could destroy an aggie. What is an aggie anyway, you ask? Well, in Texas A&M’s case, it’s lassie. Well, a herding collie named Reveille that looks like lassie. Well, actually, a herding collie named Reveille that’s the 7th in a line of previous unrelated Reveilles, the first of which looks like he would make a better poker player than mascot. Actually aggie represents the spirit of the agricultural background of the school. All this to say, it’s way too complicated, so we’re going with the freakin’ phoenix.
Oregon State Beavers vs Virginia Commonwealth Rams
For being a generic animal, rams are actually a pretty decent mascot. This is especially true in football, given that a big part of the game is running into other people in an attempt to knock them over. Beavers are also pretty cool. They can chew through trees and cause isolated natural disasters by redirecting rivers. They’re sort of like otters, except less cute and more productive. So, it came down to the mascots themselves, and I can say there was definitely a clear winner. Sorry Benny, you just aren’t that intimidating. You look pretty dumb, actually. I can’t imagine you damming any rivers, and if you tried, I feel like you’d end up like this guy. So, while Rodney looks more devious than destructive, I’m going to have to give him the nod.
Oklahoma Sooners vs California State University Bakersfield Roadrunners
Do I even have to ask? It takes 12 paragraphs to explain what a sooner is. Meanwhile, everyone knows what a roadrunner is. It’s the largest cuckoo of the Americas…the bird that can run up to 20 miles per hour…and it’s never met a coyote it can’t outsmart. I mean, look at this guy. It’s like a battletoad and Izzy had a baby and named it Rowdy. I’m betting heavily on the roadrunner to go far.