1. 4. Ohio State Buckeyes
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A tree species “native primarily to the Midwestern and lower Great Plains regions of the United States… The fruit is a round or oblong spiny capsule 4-5 cm in diameter, containing 1-3 nut-like seeds”
There is nothing intimidating in sports about trees—I’m talking to you, Stanford—or nuts. In the lexicon of college sports nicknames, this might be one of the wimpiest.
2. 3. Louisville Cardinals
“Robust, seed-eating birds with strong bills”
College sports has its share of strong bird nicknames—Falcons, Golden Eagles, Mountain Hawks, etc. But come on, U of L. You had to choose a species that, while pretty, is a vegetarian. Nonetheless, cardinals eat seeds, and buckeye fruit contains seeds. Ipso facto, Cardinals over Buckeyes.
3. 2. Kentucky Wildcats
“A small cat” that “is a hunter of small mammals, birds, and other creatures of a similar or smaller size”
UK gets bonus points for the phrase “opportunistic predators” being used in its Wikipedia definition. Seems somewhat fitting considering the havoc that John Calipari’s defense can wreak on opponents and the points they score as a result. Birds can be a part of their diet, so they have the edge over Louisville.
4. 1. Kansas Jayhawks
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“Militant bands affiliated with the free-state cause… Guerilla fighters who often clashed with pro-slavery groups from Missouri”
Freedom for all! Plus, it’s the only nickname among the Final Four teams that has its roots in combat. It’s true that some jayhawkers were motivated purely by plunder and personal profit, but others acted in the name of abolition and other honorable causes.
Also, there’s no reason to give Kentucky more of an advantage than what they already have.