Ultimate NCAA Mascot Death Match bracket: March Badness, part I

It’s March. Which means there are brackets for everything. While you’re feverishly pouring over your NCAA Tournament bracket, we at DieHards decided to give you a hand. Forget the months of college basketball we’ve already seen. Forget the stats and the RPI and the strength of a conference. Throw it all out.

The only real way to pick winners is to ask a simple question: Which mascot would win an a straight-up fight to the death? That’s why we’re here.

Welcome to the Ultimate Mascot Death Match bracket, the truest way to see which teams march on and which become easy prey for a hungry pack of wolves, a tiger or long-gone warriors from ancient civilizations.

Before we dig in, a couple of qualifiers. This is a fun column. It’s not meant to mock death and certainly no offense is meant by these selections. Secondly, given the current state of our culture and this country’s myriad problems, there will be no guns in this piece. It’s just not gonna happen. So sorry Cowboys and mountain men. You’re going to have to be a little more creative than just pulling out the pistol or musket.

With those rules in place, it’s onto the bracket.

East Region

Villanova Wildcats vs. Radford Highlanders

Wildcats will be plentiful in this tournament and even more so in this region, so for them it all depends on matchup. Had the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds won the first four game, as Sylvester the Cat taught us, Cat > Bird in most scenarios. In this case, however Highlanders are immortal beings that can only be killed by beheading. No wildcat is gonna be able to pull that off.

Winner: Radford

Virginia Tech Hokies vs Alabama Crimson Tide

Two mascots that have nothing to do with the nickname, a “Hokie” is simply taken from an old fight song for Virginia Tech. Similarly the Crimson Tide is  a term used by a sportswriter describing the 1907 Iron Bowl, which was played on a field of red mud, thus turning Bama’s jerseys crimson. They adopted the elephant mascot, while VT adopted a turkey as its mascot. And a 4,000-pound pacaderm stomps all over a delicious Thanskgiving main dish every time.

Winner: Alabama

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Murray State Racers

Mountaineers are rugged and fearless adventurers. Racehorses are fast, but not overly aggressive. Seems it wouldn’t take long for the mountain man to befriend and start riding the horse as his own, before turning on him and taking out one of his legs in a Tonya Harding-like plot. And we all know what happens to a racehorse when it breaks a leg.

Winner: West Virginia

Whichta State Shockers vs. Marshall Thundering Herd

A Shocker (aside from being a lewd act of sexual deviance) is someone who shocks or harvests wheat. A thundering herd, led by Marco the Bison, is pretty self explanatory, and would make quick work of one shocker, or multiple shockers for that matter, trampling them in a cloud of horns, saliva and fury. 

Winner: Marshall

Florida Gators vs. St. Bonaventure’s Bonnies / UCLA Bruins

Alligators are fierce creatures that will no doubt be favored in nearly any matchup. But when facing a Bruin (brown bear), it’s overmatched. The only chance the gator has is to pull the bear into the water, but at close to 800 pounds with a paw swipe that could knock down a tree, it’s unlikely to happen. As our friends at Animal Planet show us , once the bear flips the its opponent over, exposing its soft underbelly, it’s see ya later, alligator! And if you think this won’t be the only time I reference Animal Planet in this mascot death match, you’re pretty savvy.

Winner: UCLA

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks carry big axes, have awesome beards and fear nothing. Red Raiders, especially the kind depicted by Texas Tech are not the marauding, ruthless behemoths you might be thinking, but instead are more akin to Yosemite Sam, relying on thievery and deception. And no matter how rootin’ tootin’ Sam may be, without his sidearms in tow, the lumberjack and his immense forearms pummels the cowboy into submission.

Winner: Stephen F. Austin

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Butler Bulldogs

Bulldogs, especially those depicted in college mascots, are a flat out lie. They’re not the snarling, ferocious pictures that you see. They’re lazy and slobbery, and would rather lie in the sun than go into battle with anything, especially their own fitness. Meanwhile, razorbacks are nasty little buggers who have no problem charging its enemy and sticking a couple tusks where the sun don’t shine. This one is no contest.

Winner: Arkansas

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Cal State Fullerton Titans

Boilermakers, besides being a very delicious beer cocktail, are quite literally men who built the boiler engines on trains. That sounds like someone not to trifle with. However, Titans are the mythical deities adept in the art of war. And they gave birth to Zeus. ZEUS for crying out loud! Sledgehammers do very little facing thunderbolts and lightning. I fear that Fullerton is gonna be a pretty tough out in this death match tournament.

Winner: Cal State Fullerton

Midwest Region

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Penn Quakers

There is some dispute as to actually what a Jayhawk is. It’s definitely not a harmless blue and red bird. Some claim that during the Civil War, “Jayhawkers” were freedom fighters who crossed state borders in order to steal slaves and set them free. Others, most notable people from Missouri, say the Jayhawkers crossed into Missouri and looted, rioted and murdered people in cold blood. While that’s an awful part of history if true, that works in Kansas’s favor when facing a band of pacifists who are simply trying to live off the land, practice the teaching of William Penn, and eat delicious oatmeal.

Winner: Kansas

Seton Hall Pirates vs. N.C. State Wolfpack

We all know pirates can be vicious, ruthless, greedy and murderous. You know what else can be described that way? A pack of ravenous wolves. Slowed by having one wooden leg, and depth perception thrown off with the eye patches, the pirates are no match for the elusive, agile wolves. The Pack marches on.

Winner: N.C. State

Clemson Tigers vs. New Mexico State Aggies

Aggies can have a two-fold meaning in this tournament. It can be a Western cowboy, or quite literally the nickname for someone who is all things agriculture. I’m sorry, Farmer John, trowels, and pitchforks and bags of seed are no match for a Tiger that can rip your throat out Patrick Swayze-style with a single swipe.

Winner: Clemson

Auburn Tigers vs. Charleston Cougars

For the Cougar, it’s all about the matchup. It would be favored against many other opponents, but we’re talking Tiger. It’s a no-brainer. Which is hard for me, because I love Cougars. There were several that were very “nice” to me during my time in college. Let’s just leave it at that.

Winner: Auburn

TCU Horned Frogs vs. Arizona State Sun Devils/Syracuse Orange

A horned frog is just that, a lizard-like reptile with a rough, sharp exterior. But they’re far from ferocious. A Sun Devil on the other hand is literally a devil that is from the sun. Or gets its power from the sun. Or spits flames as hot as the sun. Whatever, the opponent, Sun Devil comes out on top, whether is a puny little frog, or the ambiguous “Orange.” Fruit or color, it doesn’t matter the devil isn’t losing this one.

Winner: Arizona State

Michigan State Spartans vs. Bucknell Bison

Look, I’ve seen 300. I know what what I’m getting with a Spartan. Adept in war and violence, it’s going to be hard-pressed to lose very many matchups moving forward. Especially against a lumbering buffalo that would rather eat grass and smell horribly than engage in a death match.

Winner: Michigan State

Rhode Island Rams vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Sooners are not just inhabitants of Oklahoma. In the 19th century the term came to popularity to describe “energetic, can do individuals.”  Well, they’d better be ready to have energy and fight a ram, because when two large horns and a stubborn streak come charging, one thing you “can do” is get out of the way. If not, it’s not gonna end well for you .

Winner: Rhode Island

Duke Blue Devils vs. Iona Gaels

The Blue Devil is like a red devil. Only blue. Real clever there, Duke. The Gaels meanwhile are inhabitants of Ireland and Scotland and underwent Christianization in the 5th century. In this matchup, as it should be in life God>Devil. Besides, you know who else was a Gael? A man known as William Wallace. That’s right, Braveheart kids! You think a beady-eyed Coach K-looking devil is taking out someone with the body count that Wallace has? I think not.

Winner: Iona

South Region

Virginia Cavaliers vs. UMBC Retrievers

The Retrievers have the bad fortune of being in the top 5 least fearsome mascots in the field. The dog won’t even engage in battle, but simply live up to it’s name and become a loyal companion for the cavalier, who teaches it to fetch things and to become a supporter of King Charles I.

Winner: Virginia

Creighton Blue Jays vs. Kansas State Wildcats

As we saw in previous region, the cat vs. bird matchup rarely ends well for the bird. Willie the Wildcat cleans his paws and licks his chops in this bloodbath.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Davidson Wildcats

This is the first instance of the same mascot facing off against one another. So how do we separate these two? We look at the logos of course. Davidson’s logo simply features a cartoonish wildcat bearing his fangs. But what is his demeanor? Is he simply growling? Is this a defensive growl? Heck, he might even be yawning.  Meanwhile, while not it’s traditional logo, the Kentucky logo featuring the wildcat is far more aggressive. He’s even swiping a paw out with crazy sharp claws, trying to initiate and take the fight to  his opponent. In the SEC, “it just means more” and Kentucky’s “come at me bro” offensive stance means he’s in it for blood.

Winner: Kentucky

Arizona Wildcats vs. Buffalo Bulls

Have you ever seen a wildcat take down a bull? Me neither. It’s obviously more elusive, but unless the bull simply gets tired and lays down prone, exposing its neck, it’ll simply bide its time, waiting for the cat to tire, before stomping a mudhole into the defenseless feline.

Winner: Buffalo

Miami Hurricanes vs. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

It’s unclear what a Rambler really is in this scenario. Someone who talks incessantly? The ULC mascot is a wolf, so that doesn’t really fit. However, I did find one definition of rambler: a ranch style house. Typically, it’s difficult for acts of nature to advance far in the tournament, but if recent history tells us anything, it’s that one thing a hurricane often has dominion over is a house.

Winner: Miami.

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Wright State Raiders 

Wright State actually has two different mascots (a wolf and a Viking), neither of which is the same as its actual nickname, the Raiders. Get your act together, Wright State! But for the sake of this tourney, with there already being an overabundance of wolves. We’ll go with the Vikings. And in this scenario, it’s no contest. The Viking tries to engage, however Smokey the dog simply “volunteers” himself to lose. No bloodshed needed. I like it when it works out that way.

Winner: Wright State

Nevada Wolfpack vs. Texas Longhorns

In most cases, it’s easy to have a 1-on-1 matchup, however the very definition of the Wolfpack nickname indicates that there are multiple wolves. In that scenario, they attack poor Bevo, who despite being a a 1,500-pound behemoth, is no match for the sheer volume of teeth and claws. It’s steak for days as the pack moves on!

Winner: Nevada

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Georgia State Panthers

What is a bearcat, really? Half bear, half cat? It’s actually neither and is closer in relation to a meerkat or mongoose. If it were fighting a cobra, it would have a shot, but despite having adorable cubs, a panther swiftly and easily makes a meal of the bearcat. Black Panther is all the rage, right now. No way I’m going against the righteous king of Wakanda.

Winner: Georgia State

West Region

Xavier Musketeers vs. NCCU Eagles/Texas Southern Tigers

Musketeers are brave. Musketeers have swagger. And get three of them together, than all kinds of hijinx can ensue. But one thing Musketeers don’t have is the ability to fight off a 300-pound ball of stripes, teeth and fury. Musketeer gives a valiant battle with rapier in hand, but eventually falls.

Winner: Texas Southern

Missouri Tigers vs. Florida State Seminoles

As a proud warrior of 18th century Florida, Seminoles no doubt had to deal with their fair share of hungry wildlife. One would think the Tiger would come out on top, but against a brave Seminole on horseback, armed with trusty bow and arrow, it’s an easy win for the Native American, who skins the Tiger and makes a dope coat to keep warm in the winter. Resourcefulness to the max. 

Winner: Florida State

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Buckeyes are also a mascot that comes in many forms. It’s a kind of tree, a nut that grows on that tree, or a tasty chocolate candy made to resemble said nut. Jackrabbits likely wouldn’t be favored in many matchups unless their facing a school known as the Fighting Carrots, but as the luck of the draw would have it, Jackrabbit simply finds a buckeye lying beneath the tree and chows down. It’ll be a short-lived ride, but bunny up!

Winner: South Dakota State

Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. UNC Greensboro Spartans

Please. No need to get into it. It’s not a matter of when the Spartan chooses to kill the dog, but how.

Winner: UNC Greensboro

Houston Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs

It hasn’t been a great tournament for Cougars, I gotta say. What, they couldn’t get the Jackrabbits or Bulldogs in Round 1? Instead, they have to face a race of ancient warriors that practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism? That’s right, lest any able bodied human think it can advance against the Aztec, you have to now worry about being eaten by savages. Yowza.

Winner: San Diego State

Michigan Wolverines vs. Montana Grizzlies

Horrendous draw for the Wolverines, one of the most ferocious animals on the planet pound-for-pound. But what are you gonna do against a beast 30 times its weight. And yes, I know that Wolverine killed an injured grizzly bear in the movie, but sorry Michigan fans. Hugh Jackman can’t save you this time!

Winner: Montana

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Providence Friars

Going a little off the board here, as instead of the “Aggies” moniker, we’re going with the real-life Reveille for the TAMU mascot, a Shetland sheepdog. The pacifist Friar would likely lose in most matchups, but hey, every monestary needs a pet, right. Friar becomes the dog’s owner who helps keep the flock safe. In what should be a quick exit from the tourney, Friars miraculously move on in Round 1.

Winner: Providence

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Lipscomb Bison

Hooves and Horns vs. Hooves and Horns. While the Tar Heel ram may get a few got butts in to the hind quarters of the giant buffalo, in the end, the sheer size of the buffalo wins out as it charges and takes out the defenseless ram.

Winner: Lipscomb

There you have it for the first 32 games. Check back Thursday as we fill out the rest of the Ultimate Mascot Death Match bracket.

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