College Basketball: 25 Wackiest Team Names and Mascots in the Country

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2012

College Basketball: 25 Wackiest Team Names and Mascots in the Country

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    College sports are filled with all sorts of traditions and displays of school pride, and some NCAA hoops teams have downright bizarre nicknames and mascots.

    Some schools nickname themselves after socks, others after plants, and one is even named after a doll.

    Why is the mighty North Carolina program called the "Tar Heels"? What in the world is a "Gaucho"? Which school calls itself the "Anteaters"?

    Let's find out, as we take a look at the 25 wackiest names and mascots in college basketball.

Honorable Mention

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    Western Illinois Leathernecks

    Virginia Military Keydets

    Arizona State Sun Devils

    North Texas Mean Green

    Delaware Fightin Blue Hens

    Manhattan Jaspers

    Georgetown Hoyas

    Alabama Crimson Tide

Presbyterian Blue Hose

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    Naming your team after a pair of blue socks or stockings isn't exactly intimidating, but that's exactly what Big South competitor Presbyterian did.

    Then again, the whole sock theme has worked for Boston and Chicago, so maybe Blue Hose will be a worthwhile nickname.

    Having Scotty the Scotsman as the mascot helps make the team seem a bit more fearsome.

San Diego Toreros

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    Toreros are Spanish bullfighters, so the University of San Diego's nickname is appropriate, given the strong Hispanic culture in the city.

    The name might sound weird to some people, but bullfighters are brave guys, so the Spanish twist on it makes the name a unique and formidable one.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    A Hoosier is a native of Indiana, so Indiana University's team name is fitting and distinct.

    The logo and the mascot, however, are about as unimaginative as it gets. The Hoosiers boast an interlocking I and U, and they don't even have a mascot.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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    North Carolina's nickname and mascot don't match at all, but there's special meaning behind them.

    The "Tar Heel" moniker was derived from the tar and turpentine in North Carolina pine forests that was a major export centuries ago.

    The mascot Rameses was inspired by a good luck tradition back in the 1920s, when the Tar Heels brought it to games against Virginia Military Institute.

    This is another case of a cool-looking mascot making up for a peculiar nickname.

Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners

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    UTSA features a nickname and a mascot that represent the animals and landscape of America's Southwest.

    San Antonio's old Rowdy the Roadrunner mascot used to be nothing more than a goofy chicken-type mascot dipped in blue paint.

    Today's Rowdy is more streamlined and mean-looking, true to what a real roadrunner is.

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

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    Northern Arizona's team name isn't too bizarre, but it is quite uncommon.

    Arizona is better known for its plateaus, canyons and deserts, but it's also home to some hardy pine forests, so the logging name captures the wilderness theme of northern Arizona.

    Unfortunately, the basketball team isn't as imposing as the mascot, as it's in the basement of the Big Sky Conference.

St. Bonaventure Bonnies

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    I wonder what the St. Bonaventure men's basketball team thinks about the nickname, considering Bonnie is traditionally a woman's name.

    What if other schools used a play on words to create their names like St. Bonaventure did?

    The Kansas Kannies

    The Mississippi Missies

    The UN Las Vegas Veggies

    The St. Joseph's Joeys

    The Syracuse 'Cusies

    The LSU Louies

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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    "Golden Tornadoes" might be a more apt name for Tulsa's sports teams, but Golden Hurricane is definitely unique.

    Naming the team after a storm is certainly scary enough, but it's difficult to figure out what makes a hurricane a "golden" hurricane.

    Nevertheless, Tulsa did a good job with the mascot, and the lightning bolt is a nice touch.

Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs

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    Not many team names have a quadruple meaning like the Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs do.

    The Mocs originally were named after the "Moccasin Bend" in the Tennessee River, but the name also can refer to the water moccasin snake and the mocking bird. The railroad theme in the current logo refers to Chattanooga's history as a railroad center of commerce.

    So if you like rivers, snakes, birds or trains, Chattanooga is your team.

Wichita State Shockers

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    Originally the "Wheatshockers," the Wichita State Shockers have a name and mascot that are representative of wheat harvesting in Kansas.

    If they keep it up, the 2011 NIT champions will have an opportunity to harvest a few wins in the NCAA Tournament this spring.

    WuShock the mascot is one ugly-looking dude. But then again, mascot antics aren't a beauty contest, are they?

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    Seemingly an oxymoron, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons name comes from a combination of the school's Baptist tradition and the newspaper editor noting the team's devilish play.

    The Demon Deacon mascot is a distinguished yet peculiar fellow who sports a top hat and a bow tie, which gives him major style points in my book.

Akron Zips

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    Akron's logo (on Zippy the mascot's shirt) is snazzy, but the actual name and mascot are better suited for a children's cartoon than a college basketball team.

    Once upon a time, they were the Zippers, but in 1953, the name got shortened to Zips, and the mascot turned into a kangaroo.

    People can laugh all they want at Akron and Zippy the mascot, but the hoops program is laughing all the way to the Mid-American Conference championship.

IPFW Mastodons

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    Naming your sports teams after extinct prehistoric animals is one way to ensure a spot on this list.

    Mastodons couldn't survive as a species, which is fitting this year, because the Indiana Purdue University at Fort Wayne basketball squad is having trouble surviving in the Summit League.

    But no one can question how daunting the team's logo is.

Stony Brook Seawolves

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    When I picture a Seawolf, I picture a wolf whose legs also double as fins, and he goes deep-sea diving for food.

    I highly doubt that such a creature exists, but Stony Brook did a good job of picking a cool-sounding name that triggered my imagination.

    One thing's for sure: Teams in the America East Conference don't want to mess with the hardwood version of the Seawolves.

Campbell Fighting Camels

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    Campbell University patron Zachary Kivett once said to school founder James Archibald Campbell, "Your name's Campbell; then get a hump on you! We've got work to do!" after a fire burned down three school buildings.

    Thus, Campbell's sports teams became the Fighting Camels, even though there's not a wild camel or a desert within a thousand miles of North Carolina.

Duke Blue Devils

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    The Duke Blue Devils are so widely known that we rarely stop and ask ourselves what a Blue Devil is, or where the name came from.

    Duke derived its nickname from a celebrated group of World War I French troops who were dubbed "Les Diables Bleu."

    Horns, chiseled muscles and a cape make the Blue Devil mascot one of the most menacing and unsettling mascots in college hoops.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    "Hokies" became Virginia Tech's nickname after O.M. Stull won a spirit yell contest with the chant "Hoki" in it.

    Virginia Tech's old nickname used to be the "Fighting Gobblers," which is why the turkey-ish maroon bird, HokieBird, is the mascot.

    It's a strange name and a strange bird, but the fans in Blacksburg don't care as long as the Hokies can shake things up in the ACC.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    A "buckeye" is the seed or nut from an aesculus plant, the official state tree of Ohio. Luckily for Ohio State fans, the team's logo and mascot are more than just a simple seed.

    In fact, the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team and its Brutus the Buckeye mascot are a pretty big deal.

    OSU is consistently one of the top teams in the Midwest, and Brutus is one of the most well-known mascots in the country.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

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    Chanticleers are roosters, but as you can see from the logo, a Coastal Carolina Chanticleer is much more than that.

    Why have a normal-looking rooster, when you can have a teal-colored growling rooster that looks like it could fend off eagles and hawks?

UC Irvine Anteaters

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    There aren't any wild anteaters in California, but UC Irvine adopted the animal as its nickname and mascot anyway.

    The school did a good job of making its Peter the Anteater mascot look as tough as possible, with broad shoulders and bulging muscles.

    As strange as the nickname is, I give the school credit for picking a unique, enigmatic animal.

Canisius Golden Griffins

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    The Golden Griffin nickname is fierce and regal, but it's still strange enough to be on this wacky list.

    Canisius College's fantasy creature seems like it would be the ultimate predator, but the basketball team hasn't been so threatening; it's 1-15 in the MAAC.

Texas Christian University Horned Frogs

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    If this team name and mascot isn't strange enough for you, then I don't know what is.

    For Texas Christian University, the Horned Frog name and mascot date back to the 1800s.

    The school's mascot is called Super Frog, and he's one of the spookiest-looking amphibians I've ever seen.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

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    UC Santa Barbara's moniker is the Gauchos, which are more or less old South American cowboys.

    The actual gauchos from the 1800s were simply cattle-herders, but Santa Barbara's mascot, Ole, looks like a gunslinger who's not to be trifled with. 

    On a side note, UC Santa Barbara is the alma mater of former L.A. Laker and three-time NBA champion Brian Shaw.

Southern Illinois Salukis

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    With the college basketball world full of basic bulldogs and every kind of wolf, it's refreshing to see a mysterious foreign canine as the mascot of Southern Illinois.

    Salukis are Egyptian hounds, a slender dog that has a history dating back to 7000 or 6000 B.C.

    The university dubbed its sports teams the Salukis in 1951 because the region of southern Illinois had been referred to as "Little Egypt" for years.

St. Louis Billikens

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    The Billiken is by far one of the wackiest names and mascots in college basketball.

    St. Louis University's nickname was derived from the popular charm dolls created by St. Louis art teacher Florence Pretz in the early 1900s. John Bender, the football coach at the time, apparently resembled the Billiken dolls. His team became known as "Bender's Billikens."

    Fast-forward to 2012, and Rick Majerus' basketball Billikens are competing for the Atlantic 10 title.