Missouri Tigers First Round Opponent: Cornel Big Red Game Prediction: Missouri's swarming full-court press and suffocating defense will be too much for the Big Dance's Ivy League representative. Real-Life Prediction: Finally, a worthwhile match-up of two formidable wild animals! The battle of attrition between these two tenacious species would get real bloody real fast. In the end, look for the Tiger's stamina, quickness and athleticism to overmatch the Bear's brute strength and die-hard mentality. What Happened? Missouri's swarming full-court press and suffocating defense was too much for Cornell…in the second half. Prediction Result: Won.
Memphis Tigers Sweet 16 Opponent: Missouri Tigers Game Prediction: Sorry, but I’m still not sold on Memphis. They were untested throughout their regular season and barely outlasted 15-seed CSU Northridge in Round 1 before clobbering overrated Maryland in Round 2. Tonight they face a deep Missouri team in what will surely be a track meet of a game that will be exhausting just to watch. I like the Tigers, er, Missouri. Real-Life Prediction: Well, isn’t this a quandary. Tiger versus Tiger. In what surely would be a fight with no real winner, as I expect both cats to suffer fatal injuries during battle, I’ll give the Pyrrhic victory to the more ferocious looking Missouri Tiger. The Memphis Tiger looks like he tried to jump over that “M” and got hung up.
Pittsburgh Panthers Sweet 16 Opponent: Xavier Musketeers Game Prediction: Like Louisville, Pittsburgh is providing a lot of ammo to folks who questioned the Big East getting three No. 1 seeds in the tournament, allowing East Tennessee State to hang around far too long in Round 1 and barely pulling away from Oklahoma State in the waning minutes of their Round 2 tilt. Xavier, on the other hand, ably handled Portland State in Round 1 and took care of a surprisingly defensively tough Wisconsin team in Round 2. All that said, Pittsburgh has too many weapons and I expect them to show why so many people (myself included) picked them to win this tournament. Real-Life Prediction: Xavier has two mascots: a D’Artagnan-inspired French infantry soldier and a blue, fuzzy nightmarish blob. I’ll take the actual Musketeer versus the Panther, but shudder to think what would be left of the blob.
Chattanooga Mocs First Round Opponent: Connecticut Huskies Game Prediction: Chattanooga was just 11-9 in the mid-major Southern Conference. I like the Huskies by, oh, 30 or so. Real-Life Prediction: The “Mocs” nickname has meant several things over the years. At one point it was short for Water Moccasins. Now it’s short for Mocking Birds. If it were still a snake, I’d have to give the edge to the Moc. Instead I like the Husky–unless the Moc is driving that train, in which case all bets are off. What Happened? Did I say UConn would win by 30 or so? I meant 56. Prediction Result: Won
BYU Cougars First Round Opponent: Texas A&M Aggies Game Prediction: The Mountain West champs come with a balanced attack that should stymie A&M and could prove to be a handful for 1-seed UConn in Round 2. Real-Life Prediction: When I’m hunting, nothing that inhabits the wilds of North America puts more fear in me than a Cougar. At least with a grizzly you usually know when you’re about to get your butt kicked. Edge here to the stealthy, cold-blooded killer cat. What Happened? The Cougars dug themselves a 12-point hole in the first half and couldn’t shoot their way out of it. Prediction Result: Lost

basketball_final_uni panthers

Northern Iowa Panthers First Round Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers Game Prediction: A 12-5 upset special! The Panthers have done nothing but surprise hoops fans all season and I see no reason for them to stop now, going up against a woefully underperforming Purdue squad. Real-Life Prediction: When was the last time a Panther was seen in Northern Iowa? Regardless, my opinion of ill-tempered felines is well documented (see: BYU Cougars). What Happened? It was too little, too late for the Panthers as a late charge ultimately fell short. Prediction Result: Lost
Marquette Golden Eagles First Round Opponent: Utah St. Aggies Game Prediction: Despite losing stud guard Dominic James late in the season and dropping 5 of their last 6 games, Marquette is battle-tested in the nation’s toughest conference, the Big East. I like them to handle Utah St., but don’t expect them to get past Missouri in Round 2. Real-Life Prediction: The Aggie would be too busy toiling in the fields to ward off the aerial assault of the Golden Eagle. What Happened? Battle-tested Marquette handled Utah St., but didn’t get past Missouri. Prediction Result: Won

basketball_final_mizz and cornell

Missouri Tigers First Round Opponent: Cornel Big Red Game Prediction: Missouri’s swarming full-court press and suffocating defense will be too much for the Big Dance’s Ivy League representative. Real-Life Prediction: Finally, a worthwhile match-up of two formidable wild animals! The battle of attrition between these two tenacious species would get real bloody real fast. In the end, look for the Tiger’s stamina, quickness and athleticism to overmatch the Bear’s brute strength and die-hard mentality. What Happened? Missouri’s swarming full-court press and suffocating defense was too much for Cornell…in the second half. Prediction Result: Won

basketball_final_calgolden vs maryland

California Golden Bears First Round Opponent: Maryland Terrapins Game Prediction: Talk about a toss-up. Both of these teams have glaring weaknesses. Cal is anything but intimidating on the defensive end, and Maryland can’t shoot. Since I have to pick one, I’ll go with the Terps, because if the Bears aren’t stroking threes, they’re dead in the water. Real-Life Prediction: Since I don’t see the word “snapping” preceding the word “Terrapins,” I doubt even Bronze Bears would have little difficulty here. What Happened? Indeed, Cal suffered from the arc, shooting just 29%. Prediction Result: Won
Memphis Tigers First Round Opponent: CSU Northridge Matadors Game Prediction: A lot of people felt Memphis got jobbed when they were denied a #1 seed. A lot of people must not realize that they went just 1-2 against Top 25 teams this season. Regardless, there’s no way they lose to the Matadors. Real-Life Prediction: Would the whole matador cape thing work on the Tiger like it does on bulls? Methinks no. Edge: Tiger. What Happened? The Matadors put on a heckuva show and caused no fewer than eight Memphis fans to choke on barbecue ribs during the course of the game. Prediction Result: Won

basketball_final_pitt panthers

Pittsburgh Panthers First Round Opponent: E. Tennessee St. Buccaneers Game Prediction: The only thing the East Tennessee State Buccaneers are going to win is the title for “Most Instances of Repeated Letters in a Team’s Name.” Real-Life Prediction: What’s with the geography-defying panther mascots? Anyway, I’m going against my usual feline favoritism here and siding with the Buccaneer. That is one big-ass sword. What Happened? Well, that was a bit more interesting than those of us who picked Pitt to win the tournament cared for it to be. Prediction Result: Won
Wisconsin Badgers First Round Opponent: Florida State Seminoles Game Prediction: The ‘Noles are laden with talent, and while their play can be sloppy at times, they have enough weapons to make it past defensively woeful Wisconsin. Real-Life Prediction: Badgers can be cantankerous little buggers, but this guy wouldn’t stand a chance against the Seminole’s long spear. What Happened? Wisco’s defense proved to be a bit more formidable than I anticipated, holding the ‘Noles to just 59 points. Prediction Result: Lost
UCLA Bruins First Round Opponent: VCU Rams Game Prediction: Cinderella alert! The Rams score a ton of points, and defensively UCLA is merely a shadow of the team they were just a year ago. Real-Life Prediction: This one’s all about home-court advantage. Amidst craggy peaks, you have to give the edge to the Ram, who would be able to avoid the Bruin long enough to tire it down in the thin air. In a neutral location, I like the more aggressive bear to withstand a few charges and ultimately take down the sheep. What Happened? Cinderella turned into a pumpkin…or something. VCU lost by a single point, missing a 17-footer at the buzzer. Prediction Result: Lost

basketball_final_villanova and american

Villanova Wildcats First Round Opponent: American Eagles Game Prediction: ‘Nova is one of the most balanced teams in the country, with Dante Cunnigham patrolling the key, sharp-shooting Corey Stokes stationed on the perimeter and the multi-faceted Scottie Reynolds running the show. Expect a rout. Real-Life Prediction: Patriotism trumps ambiguous cat mascots every day. End of story. What Happened? Not exactly a rout, as American apparently forgot for nearly the entire game that they play in the Patriot League and Villanova comes from the big, bad Big East. Prediction Result: Won
Minnesota Golden Gophers First Round Opponent: Texas Longhorns Game Prediction: Texas has underachieved this season and Minnesota is a tough draw for a team down on its luck with its formidable interior presence. Gophers in a snoozer. Real-Life Prediction: In a true David vs. Goliath story, the Longhorn steps in a Gopher hole, breaks its leg and needs to be put down. What Happened? Texas’s A.J. Abram’s awoke from his season-long slumber and drained 8 3-pointers en route to victory. Prediction Result: Lost
Binghamton Bearcats First Round Opponent: Duke Blue Devils Game Prediction: Binghamton’s junior forward, D.J. Rivera, is a scoring machine, and he’s surrounded by some talented support players, but they should be of little concern to the deeper, albeit shakier than usual, Blue Devils. Real-Life Prediction: Native to Asia (which is nowhere near Binghamton, NY, mind you) where it is known as the Binturong, the bearcat is a nocturnal creature that lives in the trees of the forest canopy (long live Wikipedia!). Last time I checked, devils, regardless of their color, are not opposed to keeping late hours, though traditional cloven hooves would make climbing trees difficult. I foresee a tiresome waiting game here with no real winner, least of all those who paid good money to watch. What Happened? Snoozefest. Duke by 24. Prediction Result: Won
LSU Tigers First Round Opponent: Butler Bulldogs Game Prediction: This 8-9 match-up features the teams ranked 21 and 22 in the AP Poll, and could be the tightest match-up we see in Round 1. Since I have to pick one, I’ll go with the Bulldogs here. No, the Tigers. Wait, the Bulldogs. Yeah. Bulldogs. Final answer. Real-Life Prediction: The bayou beast would be just too much teeth and claws for the paunchy pooch. What Happened? Did I say Bulldogs? I meant Tigers. Prediction Result: Lost

basketball_final_temple owls

Temple Owls First Round Opponent: Arizona State Sun Devils Game Prediction: ASU is a greatly underrated unit and Temple is surging, winning 11 of their last 12, which means these two teams are on a collision course for what should be a tremendously tight battle. In the end, sophomore guard James Harden will be the difference maker for the Sun Devils. Real-Life Prediction: The owl would surely put up a nice fight here with repeated swooping attacks and slashing talons…until he ran afoul of that pitchfork. Edge: Sun Devil. What Happened? James Harden was hardly a difference maker (9 points, 3 assists), but the Sun Devils prevailed anyway. Prediction Result: Won
Clemson Tigers First Round Opponent: Michigan Wolverines Game Prediction: Michigan lives and dies by its long-range shooting, which, frankly, isn’t very good (33.2 percent). Clemson, after a brilliant early season are going in the wrong direction at the wrong time and are terrible at defending the three-point shot. One of these flawed teams has to win, though, and I’m going with the Wolverines. Real-Life Prediction: Oh what a match-up this would be: The fourth tiger entry in the tournament against one of the most ferocious species in North America. Ultimately the tiger would prevail, but its victory would be short-lived, as I see it ultimately dying from wounds inflicted by the wolverine during battle. What Happened? Michigan held off a late charge from Clemson to secure a 3-point victory. Prediction Result: Won

basketball_final_morgan state bears

Morgan State Golden Bears First Round Opponent: Oklahoma Sooners Game Prediction: Led by projected #1 draft pick Blake Griffin, the Sooners should run roughshod over the Golden Bears. Real-Life Prediction: Sooners carried rifles in their wagons for the very purpose of defending themselves against attackers as they moved through the Unassigned Lands, including, presumably, bears (golden or otherwise). Edge: Sooners. What Happened? The Sooners may have won the game quite handily, but Morgan State still leads the tournament in body slams–with one–after Ameer Ali flipped the seemingly perpetually concussed Blake Griffin in the second half. Prediction Result: Won
Louisville Cardinals First Round Opponent: Morehead State Eagles Game Prediction: This game will be over by halftime, regardless of who wins the play-in. Real-Life Prediction: The Eagle would beat the Cardinal like a red-feathered step-bird. What Happened? Morehead State made a game of it…for the first half. Prediction Result: Won
Arizona Wildcats First Round Opponent: Utah Utes Game Prediction: Utah is a tremendous three-point shooting team, but I like ‘Zona here. If they can get out an run, they should be able to jump out to a quick lead on the slower Utes, who favor a half-court game. Real-Life Prediction: I’m not a fan of generic mascot names. What’s a “Wildcat”? A lynx? A lion? A feral tabby? A custom rifle cartridge? Unless it’s the latter, I gotta hand this one to the indigenous peoples. What Happened? ‘Zona Point guard Nic Wise torched the Utes with 21 points and 8 assists. Prediction Result: Won

basketball_final_ndsu and kansas

NDSU Bison First Round Opponent: Kansas Jayhawks Game Prediction: Another great long-distance team, the Bison punched their dance card this year in just their first season in Division I. They’re brimming with confidence right now and should give KU all they can handle for at least the first half and part of the second. Ultimately the Jayhawks will pull away. Real-Life Prediction: Since the Jayhawk is nothing more than a mythical creature, this one goes to the great symbol of the American Plains. What Happened? The Bisons’ Ben Woodside kept his team in this game for about 35 minutes, but, as I predicted, the Jayhawks pulled away in the end. Prediction Result: Won
Boston College Eagles First Round Opponent: USC Trojans Game Prediction: The Trojans were late-bloomers this season and are hitting on all cylinders right now, having won the Pac-10 Championship with wins against tournament teams Cal, UCLA and Arizona State. Technically this will be an upset, with a 10 seed topping a 7, but a Trojan victory won’t really be a surprise. Real-Life Prediction: All that armor would likely enable the Trojan to withstand a prolonged attack from the bird of prey, with the Eagle eventually falling to the sword. What Happened? The overrated Eagles barely showed up. Prediction Result: Won

For the Sweet 16 round we’ll take a look at the four games featuring teams with wild animal mascots and have a look back at our predictions from Round 1.