Via Midwest Sports Fans:
From now until the NCAA tournament games begin on Tuesday night, all sorts of experts and prognosticators, along with millions of amateurs competing in office pools, will attempt to predict the outcomes of all 67 of the tournament’s games.
People have all sorts of reasons to pick one team over another. Some break down game footage; others look at advanced statistics; and still others give preference to schools they or their friends attended.
But what if we took a different approach and picked teams based on the strength of their mascots?
Who would win in a matchup between a Spartan and a Crusader or between an orange and a grizzly bear?
Mascotology breaks down the entire NCAA tournament field by looking at who would prevail in a hypothetical meeting of mascots.
For the purposes of this exercise, I am judging the mascot by the person or creature it represents rather than on the quality of the costume itself. But, in cases where it is difficult to pick a winner, I give myself license to award bonus points for the design of the mascot.
First, here is the 2013 NCAA tournament bracket, by mascot:
Sparky (Liberty) v. Bulldog (North Carolina A&T)
Tuesday, the first night of tournament play, will see this showdown between Sparky, an eagle representing the Liberty Flames, and North Carolina A&T’s bulldog. A bird of prey beats a domesticated house pet every time. Sparky advances.
Lightning (Middle Tennessee) v. Gael Force One (St. Mary’s)
Tuesday also pits Middle Tennessee against St. Mary’s. As of Sunday afternoon, these teams were on the bubble. Had they been judged by their mascots alone, they would have been locks.
Lightning is a blue, winged horse with big teeth. Gael Force One is some sort of giant (inflatable?) knight (and possibly Cylon). I love both mascots, but Gael Force One, who stands 10 feet tall, would frighten any horse, winged or otherwise.
Louie the Cardinal (Louisville) v. Sparky (Liberty)
A cardinal against and eagle. This one’s easy. Liberty’s mascot advances to the round of 32, and we have our first ever 16-beats-1 upset.
CAM the Ram (Colorado State) v. Truman the Tiger (Missouri)
Rams sound like they should be intimidating, but it’s really nothing more than a male sheep. Truman the Tiger has no trouble with CAM the Ram.
Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State) v. The Oregon Duck (Oregon)
Anyone who had an original Nintendo Entertainment System with a light gun knows how this match-up will turn out. Pistol Pete wins.
The Billiken (Saint Louis) v. Pistol Pete (New Mexico State)
There is no team in this year’s field that I’m pulling for more than the Saint Louis Billikens. But a billiken is a charm doll with a big belly and even bigger cheekbones, and is quite possibly the least intimidating mascot in the entire field.
Thursday in San Jose will see two victories for mascots named “Pistol Pete.”
TOM III (Memphis) v. Gael Force One (St. Mary’s)
This is a tough one. Generally I would favor a tiger (TOM III) over a human. But Gael Force One appears to be wearing armor from head to toe and may shoot lasers out of his eyes. GF1 advances.
Sparty (Michigan State) v. The Crusader (Valparaiso)
I’m sure that there were plenty of advances in military technology between the Peloponnesian War and the Crusades. Nonetheless, I give the edge here to the Spartans.
The residents of ancient Sparta, perhaps more than the people of any other city in the world at any other time in history, are known for their skill in battle. Sparty defeats the Crusader and moves on.
Billy the Bluejay (Creighton) v. The Bearcat (Cincinnati)
A bearcat isn’t an actual thing. But were there such a thing as a bear-wildcat hybrid, it would defeat a bluejay every time.
The Blue Devil (Duke) v. Damien the Great Dane (Albany)
Jesus, while speaking to a crowd about spiritual beings and forces, said, “Every kingdom involved in civil war becomes a wasteland. Every city or house torn apart by divisions will collapse” (Matthew 12:25, CEB).
Duke is a Christian school (United Methodist) with one of the nation’s most esteemed divinity schools that is home to America’s foremost theologian, Stanley Hauerwas. Yet its mascot is a devil. Duke’s nickname actually comes from les Diables Bleus, a French military unit in World War I. But the mascot is not an early 20th century French soldier. It is the devil.
So the Blue Devil loses to a great dane named, ironically enough, “Damien.”
Sparky (Liberty) v. Truman the Tiger (Missouri)
I can’t imagine that an eagle would ever mess with a tiger. But a tiger wouldn’t even be able to mess with an eagle. Were we dealing with a lesser bird, I’d give the edge to the Tiger. But an eagle is big enough, strong enough, and deadly enough to carry Liberty into the Sweet 16.
Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State) v. Pistol Pete (New Mexico State)
Here we have a battle of Pistol Petes. Oklahoma State’s Pete gets the victory, if only because New Mexico State’s Pete once suffered the indignity of having Utah State mascot Big Blue rip off his fake mustache during a timeout.
Gael Force One (St. Mary’s) v. Sparty (Michigan State)
Gael Force One finally meets its match. The Spartans didn’t stand down in the Battle of Thermopylae. And Sparty isn’t going to stand down against a Gaelic robo-knight. “No retreat, no surrender. That is Spartan law.”
The Bearcat (Cincinnati) v. Damien the Great Dane (Albany)
I hate allowing a fake animal to advance all the way to the Sweet 16. But a large, wild carnivore beats a domesticated pet, even if that domesticated pet is a large dog.
Sparky (Liberty) v. Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State)
Since there are no longer any eagles on the U.S. government’s endangered species list, I can’t imagine that a cowboy like Pistol Pete would have any qualms about firing his pistol at a bird of prey. Oklahoma State moves on.
Sparty (Michigan State) v. The Bearcat (Cincinnati)
I’m convinced that an armed Spartan warrior would hold his own against a bearcat. Sparty takes down Cincinnati’s fake predator once and for all.
Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State) v. Sparty (Michigan State)
Sparty certainly looks more intimidating, but Pistol Pete has a big advantage when it comes to weaponry. Sparty also has bare arms and legs, leaving him vulnerable to attack. Pistol Pete wins this round and represents the Midwest Region in the Final Four.
Buster Bronco (Boise State) v. The Explorer (La Salle)
Few things are as valuable to an explorer as a tame horse. A bronco — a wild horse or one with a tendency to buck — on the other hand, could cause an explorer all sorts of problems. Buster Bronco gets the first-round win.
Spike the Bulldog (Gonzaga) v. Lacumba (Southern)
Lacumba is a jaguar, the sight of which would leave a bulldog cowering in fear. Unfortunately, Southern has traditionally had live mascots, the most recent of whom (the jaguar Lacumba II) died in 2004. The university planned to create a special habitat for a new jaguar mascot but scrapped those plans in 2010.
Since Southern’s mascot situation remains unresolved, Spike moves on.
ROC the Panther (Pittsburgh) v. WuShock (Wichita State)
WuShock is a wheat shocker, one who gathers wheat into sheaves or shocks. It’s a great mascot, but WuShock is no match for a panther.
Bucky the Badger (Wisconsin) v. Rebel Black Bear (Mississippi)
I’m picking an upset here. Badgers, honey or otherwise, are nasty little creatures. I think Mississippi’s new Rebel Black Bear (the recent replacement for Colonel Reb) gets badgered into frustration and walks away. Bucky wins.
Willie the Wildcat (Kansas State) v. Buster Bronco (Boise State)
Hoofed mammals don’t generally fare well against carnivores. But a wildcat isn’t going to take down a bronco. Buster moves on.
Wilbur Wildcat (Arizona) v. Bruiser (Belmont)
Bruiser is a bruin, which is a brown bear. The average wildcat is faster and more agile than the average bear. But a brown bear’s considerable size advantage would be too much for a wildcat to overcome. Bruiser wins this one.
Lobo Louie (New Mexico) v. John Harvard (Harvard)
John Harvard, for whom Harvard University is named, was a 17th-century clergyman who settled in Massachusetts in the 1630s. Lobo Louie is a wolf. I’m sure that an earlier American settler would be resourceful when it comes to dealing with wild animals. Still, I think Louie Lobo wins this round.
Leprechaun (Notre Dame) v. Cy the Cardinal (Iowa State)
This is possibly the least interesting mascot matchup in the entire bracket. A leprechaun and a cardinal. I don’t have a lot of faith in small, colored birds. And a leprechaun is a magical creature. Notre Dame gets the victory.
Brutus (Ohio State) v. Killian (Iona)
A buckeye is a nut from the Aesculus glabra tree. Killian is a Gael, a person who speaks a Goidelic, such as Irish or Scottish Gaelic. It would be an insult to the people of the British Isles to say that Killian couldn’t outlast a nut. Iona moves on.
Spike the Bulldog (Gonzaga) v. ROC the Panther (Pittsburgh)
Spike advanced into the third round on a technicality, and he’s not going any further. Pittsburgh’s panther is too much for Gonzaga’s bulldog, and ROC gets the win.
Bucky the Badger (Wisconsin) v. Buster Bronco (Boise State)
Badgers and broncos aren’t animals that are known to interact with each other. But I’m guessing that a wild horse would be too big and too fast for a badger to deal with. Buster moves on to the Sweet 16.
Bruiser (Belmont) v. Louie Lobo (New Mexico)
The biggest wolves weigh just under 100 pounds. It’s not unusual for a brown bear to weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Louie Lobo is a wolf. Bruiser is a brown bear. Bruiser wins.
Leprechaun (Notre Dame) v. Killian (Iona)
Killian, a Gael, knows all about leprechauns and their magical powers. Iona’s Killian catches Notre Dame’s leprechaun and gets three wishes, one of which is to advance to the Sweet 16.
ROC the Panther (Pittsburgh) v. Buster the Bronco (Boise State)
Buster outlasted a wildcat and a badger, but he won’t fare well against a panther. ROC moves on to the Elite Eight.
Bruiser (Belmont) v. Killian (Iona)
Killian the Gael would never have seen a carnivore as large or as intimidating as a brown bear. Bruiser the bruin sends Killian running (and it’s never a good idea to run from a bear) and takes a trip to the regional final.
ROC the Panther (Pittsburgh) v. Bruiser (Belmont)
Bruiser, a brown bear, has used his considerable size advantage to tear through the bracket. And while a bruin is considerably larger than a jaguar, that difference isn’t nearly as stark as, say, the difference in size between a bear and wolf.
I think ROC, a panther, with his speed, dexterity, and long, sharp teeth takes this round and gives Pitt its first Final Four in school history.
Big Jay (Kansas) v. Big Red (Western Kentucky)
“Jayhawks,” Kansas’s nickname, is short for “Jayhawkers,” groups of militants who fought with pro-slavery forces from Missouri before the Civil War. Big Jay, the school’s mascot, is a bird.
Big Red, mascot of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, is a red blob/monster, who wouldn’t have been out of place in the opening sequence of “The Muppet Show.” I’m of the opinion that blob beats bird and give this round to Big Red. Yet another 16-beats-1 upset.
Rameses (North Carolina) v. Will D. Cat (Villanova)
Rameses, mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels, is a ram. And, as I mentioned above, a ram is really just a sheep. But in the case of Rameses, we’re talking about a sheep whose size and big horns make him too much for a wildcat, such as Villanova’s Will D. Cat, to handle.
Rodney the Ram (VCU) v. Zippy the Kangaroo (Akron)
The big horns would give a ram, like VCU’s Rodney, a fighting chance against a kangaroo, like Akron’s Zippy. But kangaroos have been known to dabble in boxing, so Zippy takes this round.
Wolverines (Michigan) v. Jack Rabbit (South Dakota State)
Michigan doesn’t actually have a mascot. So even though a wolverine would have its way with a jackrabbit, Jack Rabbit and SDSU get a pass into the second round.
Joe Bruin (UCLA) v. Goldy Gopher (Minnesota)
Belmont’s Bruiser showed us that bruins are a tough out in Mascotology. A gopher certainly isn’t going to do anything to a half-ton brown bear. Joe Bruin and UCLA win easily.
Albert the Gator (Florida) v. Vic the Demon (Northwestern State)
Demons — whether the dark spiritual beings we encounter in the New Testament, the djinn in the Qur’an, or the Asuras in Hindu spirituality — can wreak havoc on the weak in mind and spirit, including non-human animals such as alligators. Vic gets into Albert’s head and moves on to the Third Round.
Aztec Warrior (San Diego State) v. Boomer and Sooner (Oklahoma)
Oklahoma’s official mascot is the Sooner Schooner, a Conestoga wagon pulled by two live horses. Since driving a horse-drawn wagon inside a basketball arena would be asking for disaster, Oklahoma uses Boomer and Sooner, costumed versions of the horses, for indoor sports.
You may recall from history class that the Aztecs’ first encounter with horses didn’t go very well. The Aztec Warrior will remember what happened in Tenochtitlan 500 years ago and will get his revenge on the genus Equus by taking down Boomer and Sooner.
Jack the Bulldog (Georgetown) v. Azul the Eagle (Florida Gulf Coast)
It should be clear from my previous picks that I believe “bird of prey > house pet.” Azul wins in a rout.
Big Red (Western Kentucky) v. Rameses (North Carolina)
I’m not sure why, but I like Big Red here. The blob/Muppet goes to the Sweet 16.
Zippy the Kangaroo (Akron) v. Jack Rabbit (South Dakota State)
Here we have two mascots with impressive hops. But there’s no question that a kangaroo is more intimidating than a rabbit, jack or otherwise. Zippy keeps playing.
Joe the Bruin (UCLA) v. Vic the Demon (Northwestern State)
I’ve never really been into demonology, but I think that the spiritual forces of wickedness prevail in this matchup. Vic drives Joe to insanity and advances.
Aztec Warrior (San Diego State) v. Azul the Eagle (Florida Gulf Coast)
I would imagine that San Diego State’s Aztec Warrior would treat an eagle such as Azul with reverence. But if that eagle were to attack, the Aztec Warrior would prevail. San Diego State moves on to the Sweet 16.
Big Red (Western Kentucky) v. Zippy the Kangaroo (Akron)
Big Red, a blob, would be impervious to any amount of boxing or kicking on Zippy’s part. Big Red and Western head to the Elite Eight.
Vic the Demon (Northwestern State) v. Aztec Warrior (San Diego State)
An Aztec Warrior may be too strong-willed for a demon. I’m picking the Aztec to defeat Vic the Demon and advance to play Big Red.
Big Red (Western Kentucky) v. Aztec Warior (San Diego State)
My heart says Big Red, but no Aztec Warrior is going to be foiled by a poor man’s Sesame Street character. The Aztec and San Diego State go to the Final Four.
Blackbird (Long Island University) v. Duke Dog (James Madison)
Duke Dog, the mascot for the James Madison Dukes, is a bulldog who also happens to be nobility. A greater bird would defeat a bulldog, regardless of whether that dog was an aristocrat. But Duke Dog outlasts Long Island’s Blackbird.
Hoosiers (Indiana) v. Duke Dog (James Madison)
Indiana, like Michigan, doesn’t have an actual mascot. Duke Dog, the dog who wears a crown, advances on a technicality, meaning Gonzaga is the only No. 1 seed to advance past its first matchup.
Mr. Wuf (North Carolina State) v. Hooter the Owl (Temple)
If you’re a rodent, few things are as frightening as an owl. If you’re a wolf, an owl probably doesn’t bother you. Mr. Wuf, a wolf, takes this one.
Hey Reb! (UNLV) v. Oski the Bear (California)
People like Hey Reb!, the UNLV athletic department’s version of Yosemite Sam, are the reason why Golden Bears such as Oski are extinct now. UNLV moves on.
Otto the Orange (Syracuse) v. Monte (Montana)
Monte, Montana’s mascot, is a grizzly bear. Otto is a piece of fruit. This one’s easy. Monte wins.
Butler Blue III (Butler) v. Bucky the Bison (Bucknell)
Butler’s Blue III is one of the most lovable mascots in all of college sports, but a large, wild animal is more intimidating than a small domesticated one.
Golden Eagle (Marquette) v. Mr. Cat (Davidson)
By now, you know how I feel about both birds of prey and wildcats. An eagle would have no problem with a wildcat. So Marquette’s Golden Eagle has no trouble with Davidson’s Mr. Cat.
Fighting Illini (Illinois) v. Chip (Colorado)
Illinois hasn’t had a mascot since the school retired Chief Illiniwek in 2007 after the NCAA deemed the chief “hostile or abusive” to Native Americans. Chip, Colorado’s costumed buffalo mascot (not to be confused with Ralphie, the live bison mascot at Colorado football games), gets the win.
Sebastian the Ibis (Miami) v. Powercat (Pacific)
If the Miami Hurricanes had come up with a hurricane mascot, they would have won this tournament easily. But they went with Sebastian the Ibis, who is a nice mascot but no match for Powercat, Pacific’s tiger.
Duke Dog (James Madison) v. Mr. Wuf (North Carolina State)
Once again we have a matchup between a wild animal (Mr. Wuf) and a domesticated one (Duke Dog). You know what happens. Mr. Wuf goes to the Sweet 16.
Hey Reb! (UNLV) v. Monte (Montana)
UNLV’s mountain man mascot, Hey Reb!, has already taken out one bear. Here, he takes out another.
Bucky the Bison (Bucknell) v. Golden Eagle (Marquette)
Eagles have done well thus far in this bracket. But a bison like Bucky is much too large for Marquette’s Golden Eagle. Bucky and Bucknell head to the Sweet 16.
Chip (Colorado) v. Powercat (Pacific)
A bison may be too big for an eagle, but it’s not too big for a tiger. Powercat and the Pacific Tigers move on.
Mr. Wuf (North Carolina State) v. Hey Reb! (UNLV)
You won’t find many wolves in the western United States these days, thanks in part to frontiersmen like Hey Reb! Hey Reb! does to Mr. Wuf what he did to the two bears.
Bucky the Bison (Bucknell) v. Powercat (Pacific)
Powercat took down one ungulate in the third round. He takes down another in the Sweet 16.
Hey Reb! (UNLV) v. Powercat (Pacific)
I’m guessing that a tiger would give Hey Reb! more problems than a bear or wolf. But I’m picking Hey Reb! to continue his reign of terror and advance to the Final Four.
Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State) v. ROC the Panther (Pittsburgh)
Pistol Pete has one obvious advantage over ROC the Panther, namely the pistol. But I’m going to pick an upset. I’m going to say that ROC will be too fierce and too intimidating for Pistol Pete, who will have never seen a panther before.
Aztec Warrior (San Diego State) v. Hey Reb! (UNLV)
An Aztec warrior should be more intimidating than a mountain man, but look at the pictures above and tell me which is more frightening. Hey Reb! has crazy in his eyes; he also has a technological advantage over his conference rival. Hey Reb! and UNLV advance.
Hey Reb! (UNLV) v. ROC the Panther (Pittsburgh)
Man versus beast. I could see this going either way.
But after besting two bears, a wolf, a tiger, and an Aztec warrior, Hey Reb! survives another round and defeats ROC the Panther to win Mascotology.