Mascot vs. Mascot: Who Would Win Each 2014 NCAA Tournament Matchup?

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterMarch 18, 2014

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 16: Team mascot Sparky of the Arizona State Sun Devils leads the student section in cheer during the third quarter of their college football game against the Oregon State Beavers at Sun Devil Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

For two seasons I put together an ultimate NCAA Tournament Bracket Bracket, where I took all the great bracket ideas around the Internet (and a few I made up myself) and put together a bracket of all those brackets. It was a lot of fun, and it made for great fodder for which are the best brackets to fill out. (Note: the actual bracket always wins, but ‘80s cartoons is a strong contender.)

What I didn’t realize when putting together my bracket bracket is just how interested people would be in one particular idea: Which mascots would win in a fight?

Seriously, every radio interview I did during the tournament wanted to debate if a bruin could beat a gator or how to rank a demon and a hurricane—spoiler alert: We eventually agreed that supernatural beings trump natural disasters—which got me thinking that I could actually do this entire bracket with the 2014 NCAA tournament field and people would probably love it.

A few days after we planned to run a mascot bracket this year, this happened.

Call that felt-covered serendipity.

So who would win in an actual fight between mascots, and not just the students who wear the costumes. Can an actual lumberjack beat an actual ram? Could a volunteer outwit a minuteman? And what the heck is a Billiken?

Let’s find out, and while we do let’s see which school will win the 2014 NCAA tournament mascot bracket battle royale.

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 4:  Ohio State Mascot Brutus the Buckeye goofs around with a basketball prior to the start of the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on January 4, 20114 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio State won by a final score of 8
Ryan Young/Getty Images

Mascot History

Before we get to the actual bracket, it’s interesting to look at some mascot history in the NCAA tournament.

Did you know there have been 300 teams in the NCAA Final Four since the event began in 1939? Of those 300 teams, well over half—168 to be exact—have been represented by animals.

It’s worth noting that we included 17 trips by the Tar Heels and five trips by the Hoyas in the animal collection, thanks in part to the iconic ram of North Carolina and bulldog logo of Georgetown, respectively.

Speaking of bulldogs, the Canidae family—and specifically the Canis genus—is severely underrepresented in Final Four history. Even if you include the Hoyas in that group, there have only been 18 dog-related participants in the Final Four, mostly of the bulldog or husky variety.

Cats, however, rule the animal kingdom. Specifically Wildcats.

There have been 43 cat teams to reach the Final Four, including a team using Wildcats as their less-than-unique nickname a ridiculous 27 times, including 10 national championships.

Bears have been well represented too, with 23 teams taking either Bears or Bruins to the Final Four. It’s worth noting that a bearcat—Cincinnati has five visits to the Final Four with that mascot—is neither a bear nor a cat.

There are a lot of mammals, for sure—nine times a member of the Mustelidae family has reached the Final Four in the shape of Wolverines and Badgers—but birds actually make up more than 10 percent of all Final Four participants, thanks in large part to the Cardinals and Jayhawks.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Florida State Seminoles mascot Osceola is seen prior to the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game against the Auburn Tigers at the Rose Bowl on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Indian Conundrum

There have been 60 teams with human mascots to reach the Final Four and 25 of them had or still have Indian mascot names. There has long been a controversy in the NCAA regarding the use of Native American names and mascots to the point where the organization actually tried to ban teams from participation if they continued to use those names.

Many teams changed names—from Redmen to Red Storm or Orangemen to Orange, for example—while others worked with local tribes to maintain their identity. The Illini and Seminoles are two examples of this.

The other human names are pretty fascinating as well. Most—like some of the Indian names—are related to the identity of a state university—Hoosiers and Sooners, etc.—while others are just plain weird.

Explorers, 49ers, Dons, Friars, Deacons, Quakers, Mountaineers and Aggies are a few of the oddest sports mascot names. (Note: With all the teams that have gone by Aggies, only one has made the Final Four.)

The rest of the human names are stronger, as the Spartans, Trojans, Cowboys, Rebels, Minutemen, Pirates and Warriors make up part of the list.

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  The Duke Blue Devils mascot tries to rally their fans during their game against the Virginia Cavaliers in the finals of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014 in Greensboro, North Caro
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Supernatural (And Other Things)

There have been 17 supernatural beings in the Final Four, thanks mostly to the Blue Devils, with some help from the Blue Demons. Speaking of blue, a color has been to the Final Four on four different occasions. A color.

Is that better or worse than flora? A Buckeye has been to the Final Four 11 times, with a Sycamore making one appearance. (Stanford’s mascot may be a tree, but we put them under color, not plant.)

With all that history in tow, let’s see how this year’s bracket plays out! Can the Buckeyes or Orange win? (Answer: no.)

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 8:  The mascot of the Florida Gators  poses above the arena during play against the North Florida Ospreys November 8, 2013 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. Florida won 77 - 69.  (Photo by Al Messerschm
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The 2014 NCAA Tournament South Region

1. Florida Gators vs. 16. Albany Great Dane/Mt. Saint Mary’s Mountaineers

This game is taking place in Orlando, so there is no way a gator would lose a fight to a mountaineer or a giant dog in its natural habitat.

8. Colorado Buffaloes vs. 9. Pittsburgh Panthers

I think I’ve seen this on National Geographic. Advantage panthers.

5. VCU Rams vs. 12. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

This one is hard because I imagine both man and beast sharing the same woods. I’d probably take the guy with the axe over the animal with curly horns.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

4. UCLA Bruins vs. 13. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Even golden, a major weather event would destroy any kind of bear.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes vs. 11. Dayton Flyers

I hope the Wright Brothers landed their plane on a runway made of hatless acorns.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14:  Otto, the mascot for the Syracuse Orange performs against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the quaterfinals of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Ge
Elsa/Getty Images

3. Syracuse Orange vs. 14. Western Michigan Broncos

A color will never, ever defeat a giant horse.

7. New Mexico Lobos vs. 10. Stanford Cardinal

A lobo is a wolf. Cardinal is another color. Please.

2. Kansas Jayhawks vs. 15. Eastern Kentucky Colonels

This one is hard because a colonel would destroy a small bird, but if the Jayhawk in question was the AQM-37A missile with a motor built by the Harley-Davidson company, well, things might be different.

Sep 14, 2013; Norman, OK, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane mascot during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The South Region Final Four Participant is…

I’d have to stick with the gator over the panther in Florida, while a lumberjack wouldn’t stand a chance against a hurricane. A flyer could outpace a bronco, while a colonel probably has some kind of weapon that could dispatch of any Spanish wolves that need dispatching.

Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, and while the state is still thriving, I don’t think an individual gator would survive very long. On the other side, I’d take the flyer over the colonel, setting up an Elite 8 battle between a hurricane and a plane. Um…

Final Four: Tulsa Golden Hurricanes

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  The Virginia Cavaliers mascot tries to rally their fans during their game against the Duke Blue Devils in the finals of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014 in Greensboro, North Caro
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The 2014 NCAA Tournament East Region

1. Virginia Cavaliers vs. 16. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Did you know a Chanticleer is a small chicken-like fowl? I only know that because Rutgers was once called the Chanticleers before someone wised up and changed the mascot to something a tad more intimidating. Cavaliers in a bloodbath, perhaps literally.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: The George Washington Colonials mascot walks on the court in the second half against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Semifinals of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament  at Barclays Center on March 15, 2014 in
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

8. Memphis Tigers vs. 9. George Washington Colonials

This is a situation where circumstances may dictate outcome. Does the colonial have a musket? Is the colonial George Washington himself? If that’s the case, I’d probably take George Washington over a tiger. Any other colonist would get eaten alive.

5. Cincinnati Bearcats vs. 12. Harvard Crimson

Small ferocious animal against a color. Sorry, Harvard.

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 21:  Sparty, the mascot for the Michigan State Spartans performs against the Valparaiso Crusaders during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 21, 2013 in Auburn Hi
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

4. Michigan State Spartans vs. 13. Delaware Blue Hens

This isn’t even fair. I imagine the Spartan eating its kill for lunch before using the feathers for a helmet plume.

6. North Carolina Tar Heels vs. 11. Providence Friars

This is a situation where I’d take a ram over a human in that I don’t know if a Friar would even defend himself on principle.

3. Iowa State Cyclones vs. 14. North Carolina Central Eagles

Natural disasters made primarily of spinning wind against flying birds? I’m so sorry, poor eagles.

Keep flappin, bird.
Keep flappin, bird.Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

7. Connecticut Huskies vs. 10. Saint Joseph’s Hawks

This one isn’t easy. Have you ever seen Connecticut’s mascot? It’s the wimpiest looking dog in the world. I think I’d pick an angry hawk over that specific huskie any day.

2. Villanova Wildcats vs. 15. Milwaukee Panthers

In a fight between a small cat against a big cat, always take the big cat. Advantage panthers.

I admit it annoys me that Iowa State uses a bird because a Cyclone was too hard to make into a mascot.
I admit it annoys me that Iowa State uses a bird because a Cyclone was too hard to make into a mascot.Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The East Region Final Four Participant is…

I’m taking a colonial over a cavalier—I’d take George Washington over Thomas Jefferson any day as well—and a Spartan over a bearcat. The cyclone would rip apart anything in its path, be it a ram or panther, who I’d take over the hawk.

A Spartan would finally thwart the colonial, but again, weather wins, as a cyclone would get to the Final Four over any mortal, even one in armor.

Final Four: Iowa State Cyclones

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 5:  Arizona Wildcats mascots Wilbur the Wildcat and Wilma The Wildcat pose during the game between the Arizona Wildcats and the USC Trojans on December 5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  Arizona won
Jeff Golden/Getty Images

The 2014 NCAA Tournament West Region

1. Arizona Wildcats vs. 16. Weber State Wildcats

I’m picking the wildcat.

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Zags) vs. 9. Oklahoma State Cowboys

A cowboy against an ugly dog? How rugged is the cowboy? I bet he’s pretty rugged.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

5. Oklahoma Sooners vs. 12. North Dakota State Bison

This was the perfect matchup for anyone from Oklahoma. They’d probably cook up the bison just for kicks.

4. San Diego State Aztecs vs. 13. New Mexico State Aggies

From History.com:

The Aztecs, who probably originated as a nomadic tribe in northern Mexico, arrived in Mesoamerica around the beginning of the 13th century. From their magnificent capital city, Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs emerged as the dominant force in central Mexico, developing an intricate social, political, religious and commercial organization that brought many of the region’s city-states under their control by the 15th century. Invaders led by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes overthrew the Aztecs by force and captured Tenochtitlan in 1521, bringing an end to Mesoamerica’s last great native civilization.

They were beaten by the Spanish, but I bet they could take an American farmer.

6. Baylor Bears vs. 11. Nebraska Cornhuskers

I can’t stop imagining a bear angrily stomping through a cornfield right now.

3. Creighton Bluejays vs. 14. Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

I bet that Cajun could cook up some mighty tasty pot of gumbo with the right number of blue jays. Don’t eat the bones, though. Blue jay bones must be tough to swallow.

Uncredited/Associated Press

7. Oregon Ducks vs. 10. BYU Cougars

Take a woman 15 years your elder out to a nice dinner, order the duck and you see what happens. Wait…

2. Wisconsin Badgers vs. 15. American Eagles

The American eagle is endangered for a reason, and that reason is probably not because of a barrage of badger attacks over the years. Still, I bet if they were forced to fight, that little angry badger would do enough damage to win.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 15:  San Diego State Aztecs mascot Aztec Warrior appears on the court during the first half of a semifinal game of the Reese's Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament against the New Mexico Lobos at the Thomas & Mack Center on
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

The West Region Final Four Participant is…

A cowboy would beat a wildcat and an Aztec would continue its run over any Sooner. I imagine more than one ragin’ Cajun finding himself in a fight with a bear and I bet he lived to tell the tale about it. A cougar would probably eat a badger in one bite. The claws might hurt going down though.

Look, I know there’s probably some historical context that suggests otherwise, but if there was a one-on-one fight between a cowboy and an Aztec, I’m taking the Aztec. And while I have no doubt a ragin’ Cajun can handle a cougar if he thwarted a bear, I’m struggling to decide between an Aztec and said Cajun.

Final Four: San Diego State Aztecs, in a fight everyone would love to witness.

Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

The 2014 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region

1. Wichita State Shockers vs. 16. Cal Poly Mustangs/16. Texas Southern Tigers

Three-way fight between anything wheat related, a horse and a tiger. I’m taking the tiger.

8. Kentucky Wildcats vs. 9. Kansas State Wildcats

I’m taking the...

JAMES A. FINLEY/Associated Press

5. Saint Louis Billikens vs. 12. North Carolina State Wolfpack/12. Xavier Musketeers

What is a Billiken?

The Billiken was born Oct. 8, 1908, when Kansas City art teacher and illustrator Florence Pretz patented a design for an elf-like creature with pixie ears, a mischievous smile and a tuft of hair on his pointed head. Reportedly, the image came to her in a dream.

The legend is that the Billiken is supposed to provide luck: good if you buy one, better if it’s given to you and best if it is stolen.

Okay then. I’m picking the guy with the gun.

4. Louisville Cardinals vs. 13. Manhattan Jaspers

What is a Jasper?

The unique nickname of Manhattan College’s athletic teams, the Jaspers, comes from one of the College’s most memorable figures, Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., who served at the College in the late 19th century.

A native of Ireland, Brother Jasper came to Manhattan College in 1861 as the head of resident students. During years at Manhattan, he founded the school's first band, orchestra, glee club, various literary clubs, and became the school's first athletic director.

Brother Jasper is credited with inventing the seventh-inning stretch. I’ll take that over a small bird.

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

6. UMass Minutemen vs. 11. Iowa Hawkeyes/11. Tennessee Volunteers

Two men with guns and a hawk? Would the men shoot each other, leaving the hawk to survive? I imagine the hawk perched just between the two men, then flying away just as they both fire a shot, hitting each other in an accidental standoff.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

3. Duke Blue Devils vs. 14. Mercer Bears

Beings from another realm trump bears every time.

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Bevo, the mascot of the Texas Longhorns, stands in his corner during a game against the Colorado Buffaloes on October 10, 2009 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Texas won 38-14.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Ge
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

7. Texas Longhorns vs. 10. Arizona State Sun Devils

They trump cows/bulls too.

2. Michigan Wolverines vs. 15. Wofford Terriers

Poor little terrier would get ripped to shreds by a wolverine. Man those suckers are vicious.

The ASALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 09: Sparky the Arizona State Sun Devils mascot works the sidelines during their game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium November 9, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

The Midwest Region Final Four Participant is…

The tiger beats the wildcat, badly, but loses to the Musketeer who would have no problem getting by Brother Jasper.

The bottom half of the bracket is more interesting. The Blue Devils are on a collision course with the Sun Devils, and it’s pretty obvious either would beat a simple man with a gun. I’ll take the Sun Devil over the Blue Devil, mostly because the Blue Devils were actually named after the Chasseurs Alpin, who were French soldiers nicknamed “les Diables Bleus.”

Yes, Duke is actually named after soldiers from France. That is so Duke.

Final Four: Arizona State Sun Devils

B/R Illustration

The Final Four

On one side of the bracket we have the Golden Hurricane against the Cyclones and on the other we have the Aztecs and the Sun Devils.

I’m leaning toward the Cyclones, in that the Tulsa mascot is clearly singular—they are no Miami Hurricanes—and I bet multiple cyclones could do more damage than one hurricane. (I cannot actually believe I just wrote that sentence with an attempt at rational thought.)

It doesn’t matter, because nobody beats the devil, particularly a devil made from the white hot fire of the sun. The 2014 Mascot Fight National Champion is the Arizona State Sun Devil.


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