I'm not exactly the biggest fan of college basketball, but March Madness is a huge deal.
Rather than refer to the NCAA Championships as "the sports" or ridiculing people for being fans of something, I joined the fun by coming up with my own March Madness bracket — based on which mascot would win in a fight. I worked out how I think the Round of 64 would shake out, and my chances at getting a cut of Warren Buffett's money seems slim.
In order to tackle the Round of 64, I had to make a few assumptions about the First Four. I have faith in my methodology, though.
Kansas Jayhawks vs Austin Peay Governors
Did you know that the noble jayhawk doesn't exist? At least, it doesn't describe a bird. Instead, it refers to Civil War era anti-slavery guerrilla fighters with an unfortunate penchant for theft. The group that sacked Osceola would make short work of a Tennessee governor…the Jayhawks will steal the show.
Winner: Kansas Jayhawks
Colorado Buffaloes v Connecticut Huskies
Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. That is to say, Buffalo from upstate New York have a nasty habit of intimidating other Buffalonian buffalos. Isn't it cool how you can make a perfectly legitimate sentence by repeating the word "Buffalo" as many times as you like? Man may have driven the noble buffalo close to extinction, but a respectable herd of buffalo could handily buffalo a few huskies into submission.
Winner: Colorado Buffaloes
Maryland Terrapins v South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Ah, I remember this fable! The age-old tale of the tortoise versus the hare. The Jackrabbits may be nimble, but the tenacity of tortoises will lead the terrapins to victory.
Winner: Maryland Terrapins
California Golden Bears v Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
You're probably wondering, "Michael, why are you checking weather forecasts to decide a matchup between man and bear"?
Well, legend has it that Hawaii sports teams will never lose if a rainbow appears during a game. Hence, the Rainbow Warriors. Normally I would go through the trouble of looking up the weather forecast…except the Warriors are facing the Bears in Spokane Washington. I don't need to check the weather to know that it always rains in Spokane. And the silver lining to this particular raincloud? Rainbows.
Winner: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Arizona Wildcats v Vanderbilt Commodores
WHAT TEAM? WILDCATS.
Now, I know what you're thinking. The Commodores had it easy in the first matchup. Husk a little corn, nothing special. So they're well-rested as they turn their attention further inland to face a few kittens. The only problem? These kittens have teeth. And sailor suits don't leave much room for protection.
Winner: Arizona Wildcats
Miami Hurricanes v Buffalo Bulls
…another hurricane. Seriously? As if the Golden Hurricanes weren't bad enough, now I have to deal with the Miami Hurricanes as well? This is complete and utter bullshit. Which is fitting, since they're facing off against bulls.
This video of a cow caught in Hurricane Sandy may be fake, but the fact that cows lie down before a rainstorm is no bull. Even if they don't get swept up in the hurricane itself, the old wives tale claims that cows will lie down in the rain.
Winner: Miami Hurricanes
Iowa Hawkeyes v Temple Owls
Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce never wanted to fight in your war. But now that he's been enlisted…he still doesn't want to fight in your war. If the Iowa Hawkeyes bear any resemblance to their alcoholic namesake, they'll go out of their way to do the absolute minimum in March Madness.
The Owls may not seem like they give a hoot, but those tiny little murderbeasts are secretly plotting your demise.
Winner: Temple Owls
Villanova Wildcats v UNC Asheville Bulldogs
Don't get me wrong…I love bulldogs. And back in the day, they were some of the most fearsome hunting dogs you could find. But over the years, domestication and selective breeding have dulled their fighting chops. This is great news for bulldog owners, as the puppies make great house pets.
Not quite so good for the poor bulldog that's matched up against a wildcat.
With four teams "sporting" the Wildcats and five the Bulldog, expect to get sick of both mascots real quick.
Winner: Villanova Wildcats
Oregon Ducks v Southern Jaguars
The Jaguar F-Type luxury sports car is a thing to behold. It'd be a shame if a flock of ducks were to fly overhead and cover it in bird droppings.
If that seems like a stretch, it's because that is the only option I could think of where a duck could possibly beat a jaguar. I tried it all. Rag-tag group of under-privileged kids hitting the hockey rink…three guys walking into a bar…the sad reality? Jaguars are going to beat ducks. Period. No way around it, no matter how sick I am of writing about big cats. I don't have to like reality to accept it.
Winner: Southern Jaguars
St Joes’ Hawks v Cincinnati Bearcats
Bearcats smell like buttered popcorn. This doesn't help figure out if they'd beat a hawk in a fight…I just thought it was a really cool fact. They are known to eat birds, but somehow I don't think they have much of a chance against hawks.
I say this with a heavy heart because the bearcat (also known as the binturong) is a fascinating beast, but I'm hawkish for hawks.
Winner: St Joe's Hawks
Baylor Bears v Yale Bulldogs
Ah, the Bulls and the Bears. Wall Street in action.
Bulldogs were originally bred for bear hunting, so this is a fairly straightforward match-up. I'm Bullish on the Bulldogs, if only bearly.
Winner: Yale Bulldogs
Duke Blue Devils v UNC Wilmington Seahawks
I don't even care what a Blue Devil might be. It's not a predatory bird, bulldog, or big cat, so I'm rooting for it.
…fine, I'll do it for real. What we're really talking about hear is French Special Forces from WWI, not hell freezing over. They should be able to skeet shoot their way to victory against the seahawks.
Winner: Duke Blue Devils
Texas Longhorns v Northern Iowa Panthers
Back to the big cats again.
Yes, a panther could probably down a glorified cow in two shakes of a lamb's tail. Yes, I wish there were fewer feline mascots in the NCAA. Are you happy?
Winner: Northern Iowa Panthers
Texas A&M Aggies v Green Bay Phoenix
What's the plural for phoenix - phoenices? Whatever the proper spelling may be, the phoenix has one critical flaw that's going to make a single-elimination tournament difficult.
If phoenices are known for rising from the ashes, it means they're bound to crash and burn in their first match-up. And if March Madness gave them a chance for a come-back, they'd be on a path to victory. But one strike you're out in the NCAA. Instead, we get to enjoy Reveille the pampered Collie…who also has a history of coming back from the dead. I think Texas A&M is currently up to Reveille #9.
Winner: Texas A&M Aggies
Oregon State Beavers v Virginia Commonwealth University Rams
Beavers vs rams…damn, this is a tough one.
Okay, let's turn to Greek mythology for answers. Beavers and Rams are both associated with Constellations. Beavers owe their scientific name (Castor fiber) to Castor, a twin that makes up half the constellation Gemini, while Aries is tied to the Golden Ram.
What's the Golden Ram known for? Being sacrificed to save two siblings. It's a bit of a stretch, but I'm giving the Golden Fleece to the Beavers.
Winner: Oregon State Beavers
Oklahoma Sooners v CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners
If only CSU Bakersfield was matched up against the College of Idaho, College of Southern Nevada, Kansas Wesleyan, Weatherford College, or California State: San Bernadino. Just imagine, a showdown between coyote and roadrunner!
Oklahoma homesteaders weren't known for eating roadrunners, but I can't imagine they were too picky about what they put in their stew. Zimbabweans even refer to their indigenous chickens as "road runners". Shame they're not facing off against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
Winner: Oklahoma Sooners
North Carolina Tar Heels v Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
Well blessed be, it looks like we have a Fairleigh interesting bout on our hands! The North Carolina Tar Heels got their name for being fierce fighters in the Civil War, sticking to their guns and formation almost as well as the tar their region produced. This gives them at least one distinct advantage over their knightly counterparts: guns.
I'm sticking with the Tar Heels, here.
Winner: North Carolina Tar Heels
USC Trojans v Providence Friars
This showdown should be relatively straightforward…friars don't have to worry about Trojans, thanks to their vow of chastity.
Enough horsing around. The Providence Friars are going to eat USC for dinner. After all, you know what they say…out of the frying pan, and into the friar.
Winner: Providence Friars
Indiana Hoosiers v Chattanooga Mocs
Hoooo boy. Hoosiers and Mocs. Two names that don't make a lick of sense.
"Mocs" is short for Mockingbird - an obvious Hunger Games reference. So, let's delve into Suzanne Collins' world to identify our victor. According to the official map of Panem, Indiana is part of District 9, while Chattanooga falls within District 8. Neither District fared well in the 74th Hunger Games, but District 8′s unnamed tribute was the first man to die in the Cornucopia. District 9′s male tribute got eliminated shortly after, but order matters.
Like the Hunger Games, there can only be one winner of March Madness. I mean, the final two teams could choose to openly flaunt NCAA regulations, refuse to play, and make out on the court in Houston…
Winner: Indiana Hoosiers
Kentucky Wildcats v Stony Brook Seawolves
Okay, why the hell did a New York school name their mascot after an animal ripped from Alaskan folklore? And if you're going to choose a mythical beast, why select one that's known for getting skinned?
I really don't want to see so many wildcats making it through to the next round, but the competition is leaving me with no choice.
Winner: Kentucky Wildcats
Notre Dame Fighting Irish v Michigan Wolverines
There has never been a documented case of a wolverine attacking a human. I learned this wonderful fact from an article that describes wolverines as "a weasel on steroids." I trust this article with the Fighting Irish mascot's life.
Another fun fact from this highly reputable article? In the last 200 years, only one wolverine has been spotted in the state of Michigan. Presumably when he was traveling south after escaping from the Weapon X laboratory in Alberta.
Winner: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
West Virginia Mountaineers v Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks
Mountaineers v Lumberjacks. Is there even a difference between the two? I've always thought of mountaineers as hobbyists while lumberjacks are career woodsmen…maybe that extra commitment gives them the edge at more than just flapjack consumption.
Winner: Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks
Wisconsin Badgers v Pittsburgh Panthers
This is our sixth big cat of the tournament, and every single one of them has won. I can say this because bearcats aren't actually cats - they're closer to mongooses than anything else.
Well, surprise! The Panthers win once more. My only solace is that Badgers don't care. They really don't give a shit.
Winner: Pittsburgh Panthers
Xavier Musketeers v Weber State Wildcats
Thank you, d'Artagnan! Finally, someone capable of going head-to-head against a big cat and living to tell the tale. Whether it ends by musket or rapier, this confrontation will end in the Musketeer's favor.
Winner: Xavier Musketeers
Virginia Cavaliers v Hampton Pirates
Time for a brief history lesson. Remember the Puritans? Came over on the Mayflower, escaping religious persecution, looking for a new life?
That flight from Europe happened in 1620. Just a handful of years later, a different group of Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell overthrew Charles I and beheaded him, leading to a similar exodus of Royalists (also known as Cavaliers). The Puritans fled to Massachusetts, and the Cavaliers fled to Virginia.
Those Virginia Cavaliers? Had a bit of a piracy problem. According to William Berkeley, the "Seas are soe full of Pyrates that it is almost impossible for any Ships to goe home in safety."
Winner: Hampton Pirates
Texas Tech Raiders v Butler Bulldogs
Bulldogs used to be used for hunting, but over the years they have adapted to the life of a guard dog. One of the reasons they bond so well with families is because they are exceptionally territorial.
That's a problem for raiders, as their raison d'etre is to invade other peoples' property. Bulldogs are a raider's natural enemy.
Winner: Butler Bulldogs
Purdue Boilermakers v Arkansas Little Rock Trojans
Boilermakers are really good at working with steel. Why, give them enough time, and I bet they could make a really convincing statue of a horse for the Trojans - free of charge!
And why would the Trojans have reason to look a gift horse in the mouth? Oh, sure, there's going to be a neigh-sayer or two that prophecies calamity. But what a horse! Surely, it's a sign of impending victory.
Arkansas Little Rock Trojans Purdue Boilermakers
Iowa State Cyclones v Iona Gaels
Cyclones and gales are both strong winds. Gales clock in between 34-47 knots. A cyclone of that speed registers as a tropical storm.
However, that's only the beginning of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Category Four storms are more than double what you'd see out of gale-force winds. Cyclones start out on par with gales, but have the staying power to far surpass them.
Oh, that wasn't a typo? We're talking about people of Gaelic origin? Sorry for blowing a lot of hot air, but I'm still giving it to the Cyclones.
Winner: Iowa State Cyclones
Seton Hall Pirates v Gonzaga Bulldogs
The bulldogs got lucky against the raiders - they were bred specifically to answer that challenge. Pirates are a different breed, with the possible exception of this bulldog pirate puppy.
The pirate puppy may have stole my heart, but the pirates will steal the show.
Winner: Seton Hall Pirates
Utah Utes v Fresno State Bulldogs
Let's take a moment to pay our respect to the Utah Utes, who actually listened to tribal members of the Ute Tribal Council when they expressed concern at the school's "Redskins" mascot. That's right, I'm looking at you, Cleveland Indians. Chief Wahoo is intended to honor Native Americans? Seriously?
Unfortunately for me, the (Tribal Council approved) Utes mascot is Swoop the red-tailed hawk, so we've got yet another bird of prey in contention. Unfortunately for the Fresno State Bulldog, red-tailed hawks are known for attacking pet dogs.
Winner: Utah Utes
Dayton Flyers v Syracuse Orange
I don't understand why a school would choose 8.5x11 pamphlets as their mascot, but who am I to judge - my alma mater celebrated competitive sports by selecting a pacifist as mascot. Anyway, back to the most benign showdown of this year's NCAA tournament.
You could probably take a flyer and attempt to cut through the orange peel, but it probably won't do much damage, and on the off chance it gets through to the pulp, it's going to get all soggy and damp. Meanwhile, freshly squeezed orange juice can be used as a lemon juice substitute to artificially age paper. It'll still be a perfectly functional sheet of paper…it'll just be a smidge darker and more brittle. Don't expect the Seton Hall Pirates to get their cure for scurvy, but the Syracuse Oranges squeezed on through to the next round
Winner: Syracuse Orange
Michigan State Spartans v Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Wow…Middle Tennessee State University is horrible at choosing mascots. They started off with a Klan leader, moved on to a blue hound dog, and finally settled on Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. Sorry, "Lightning" from My Little Pony.
Having said that, Spartans had to kill a Helot slave in order to enter Spartan society…at least MTSU has been evolving in a vaguely positive direction.
Winner: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders