Every March I spend far too much time between Selection Sunday and the tip-off of the first game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament thinking about not only the potential outcomes of the games, but what would happen if the mascots were to face-off in real life. Here is how I see hypothetical battles between wildlife-inspired mascots and their first-round opponents playing out, as well as my predictions for the actual games.
First Round Opponent: George Mason Patriots
Real-Life Prediction: Readers of past Mascot Showdowns know that I loathe the generic, unimaginative “Wildcat” mascot, and this year the tournament is plagued by four of them. Are you a mountain lion? A bobcat? Tiger? Lion? Pick one, will ya? Anyway, I’m giving the nod to our forefathers here, as they will surely be armed with some sort of firearm. Game Prediction: ‘Nova
First Round Opponent: West Virginia Mountaineers
Real-Life Prediction: Mascot Showdown Truism #27: Any armed mascot shall be favored over any land-based animal mascot.
Game Prediction: West Virginia
First Round Opponent: Princeton Tigers
Real-Life Prediction: The conviction to declare just what kind of feral feline it is–and an Ivy League education, to boot–tilts the scales in favor of the Tiger here.
Game Prediction: Kentucky
Marquette Golden Eagle
First Round Opponent: Xavier Musketeers
Real-Life Prediction: Here is why Mascot Showdown Truism #27 refers only to land-based animal mascots. While the Musketeer would appear to have the upper hand, given the firearm that his name implies he carries, the time it will take him to reload following a horribly inaccurate attempt at hitting the Golden Eagle will give the bird ample opportunity to attack with its razor-sharp talons.
Game Prediction: Xavier
First Round Opponent: UNC Tar Heels
Real-Life Prediction: If we’re talking Blackbirds in the Hitchcockian sense of the species, I’m going to give the advantage to a massive flock of birds over the barefooted Carolinian. Besides, won’t the tar just slow him down?
Game Prediction: UNC
First Round Opponent: Ohio State Buckeyes
Real-Life Prediction: If a Roadrunner is smart enough to evade the finest products ever made by Acme Corporation–including Anvils, Rocket Powered Roller Skates, Earthquake Pills and Explosive Tennis Balls–you’ve got to figure it’ll be able to handle an inanimate deciduous tree in short order.
Game Prediction: OSU
First Round Opponent: Tennessee Volunteers
Real-Life Prediction: MST #27 applies once again! As we all know, however, the Wolverine has an awfully ornery disposition, so don’t be surprised if it manages to absorb a bullet and inflict some trauma on the Vol before expiring. However if Smokey the blue-tick hound shows up for the fight this one will go to the Wolverine in a rout.
Game Prediction: Michigan
First Round Opponent: Memphis Tigers
Real-Life Prediction: As with the Kentucky/Princeton match-up, this one goes to the kitty with a defined identity.
Game Prediction: ‘Zona
First Round Opponent: Texas Longhorns
Real-Life Prediction: Finally, a decent animal-versus-animal showdown…and this one will be epic. Although the Longhorn isn’t known to be overly feisty, it’s going to defend itself to the death, and I guarantee that the Griz will be on the business end of those seven-feet-wide horns at least once or twice before ultimately dispatching the bovine.
Game Prediction: Texas
First Round Opponent: Missouri Tigers
Real-Life Prediction: “Bearcat” is another name for the binturong, a viverrid mammal native to Southeast Asia (thank you, Wikipedia). The binturong is a squat, bushy-tailed creature that lives in trees and “can be vicious when cornered.” A tiger is a massive, savage beast that kills without provocation. Advantage: Tiger.
Game Prediction: Cincy
First Round Opponent: UConn Huskies
Real-Life Prediction: Whether we’re talking about a herd of bison or a single animal, the outcome remains the same: the poor little sled dog doesn’t stand a chance.
Game Prediction: UConn
First Round Opponent: Penn State Nittany Lions
Real-Life Prediction: I’m a big fan of raptor-feline battles. In one corner, you have an extremely nimble, athletic, cagey land-based animal with lighting reflexes and knife-like claws and teeth. In the other, you have a swift, voracious, evasive bird with keen eyesight and surprisingly strong and sharp talons. This battle goes to the Lion, though, as the Owl is far too diminutive to outlast the big cat.
Game Prediction: Temple
Northern Colorado Bears
First Round Opponent: SDSU Aztecs
Real-Life Prediction: If only the Aztecs could have invented some sort of firearm before the Conquistadors wiped them out, then we could have invoked MST #27 once again. Instead, they will be woefully unprepared to take on the big bruin with nothing more than a spear and a shield.
Game Prediction: San Diego State
First Round Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores
Real-Life Prediction: Lionel Richie’s crippling arachnophobia is well documented. Let’s just move on.
Game Prediction: Richmond
First Round Opponent: Morehead State Eagles
Real-Life Prediction: An aerial battle for the ages! Just kidding. This would be like the real Red Baron of WWI fame going against Snoopy while he’ pretending to be the Red Baron. Or like the real Red Baron devouring a Red Baron frozen pizza. You get the idea.
Game Prediction: L’ville
St. Peter’s Peacocks
First Round Opponent: Boilermakers
Real-Life Prediction: Really, the only thing the Peacock has going for it in terms of self-defense is a horrific, high-pitched screech. I would think that making boilers is a pretty noisy trade, so the Boilermaker’s hearing is probably shot at this point in his career, making him invincible to the lone, pathetic defense trait of the big, pretty bird.
Game Prediction: St. Peter’s
First Round Opponent: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Real-Life Prediction: A Zip is a kangaroo (duh), and if Bugs Bunny cartoons have taught us anything, it’s that kangaroos are tremendous boxers. It’s a good thing the Irishman already has his dukes up, to soften the first few crushing blows from the feet of the ‘roo, but after just a few short minutes the wee pugilist will be helpless to defend himself against the relentless pounding.
Game Prediction: Notre Dame
First Round Opponent: UNC-Asheville Bulldogs
Real-Life Prediction: The Bulldog might have once been bred as a fierce, quick and strong canine, but today’s version can barely climb down off the couch without huffing and puffing. This one’s going to get real ugly real fast.
Game Prediction: Pitt
Kansas State Wildcats
First Round Opponent: Utah State Aggies
Real-Life Prediction: Mercifully, this is our last showdown featuring a wildcat. My take here is that the Aggie will be too busy toiling in his fields to even notice the stealthy ‘Cat moving in for the kill.
Game Prediction: K-State
First Round Opponent: Belmont Bruins
Real-Life Prediction: You can’t underestimate the fight in a Badger, but sheer size and brute strength will put the Bruin on top in this match-up.
Game Prediction: Belmont
First Round Opponent: UCSB Gauchos
Real-Life Prediction: Does the Gaucho have a gun? If so, MST #27 applies. If not, I like the Gator here. It’s just too strong, too quick and too tenacious.
Game Prediction: Florida
First Round Opponent: Michigan State Spartans
Real-Life Prediction: The Spartan’s body armor will help to some degree, but it leaves too much skin exposed, and unless he can sink that sword into the vitals of the Bruin right off the bat, I think he’ll be in for a long, painful day.
Game Prediction: UCLA
First Round Opponent: Georgetown Hoyas
Real-Life Prediction: There is no more confusing mascot in all of college athletics than the Hoya. What does a climbing plant have to do with a bulldog? Anyway, whichever shows up for this showdown is going to be promptly dispatched by the Ram.
Game Prediction: G’town
March Madness is here! The basketball games are great, but what if the mascots squared off head to head?