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Which Mascot is Most Fearsome? An Incredibly Serious Breakdown of NCAA Mascots

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When the NCAA Tournament brackets come out, college basketball fans around the country spring into action, poring over statistics, KenPom ratings, RPIs, point differentials and any other factor that will give them an edge over their friends and co-workers during March Madness. But what about the team nicknames?

What if we looked at each matchup not based on positional advantage or coaching experience, but which team nickname/mascot is more fearsome? Let’s break down each game of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament based on a new metric: “FARM” aka “Ferocity Above Replacement Mascot.” With this equation, Replacement Mascot is just a basic run of the mill animal with no violent tendencies (e.g., a dog). An inanimate object or color would have a negative FARM. A predator animal or human with a weapon would have a positive FARM. A natural disaster or act of Mother Nature has a FARM that is off the charts and hard to beat (congratulations, Iowa State and Miami, you’re heading to the Final Four!)

We’re not saying that you should use this formula to make your picks for this year’s tournament. But if you think about it, is it really any less ridiculous than any other way of filling out your brackets?

A few additional ground rules before we start: the initial analysis will be based on the school’s nickname. However, in the event of a generic nickname (e.g., “Aggies”), we will look to the school’s mascot for additional details on the ferocity. We will also use the source of the nickname to help make any tough calls as needed.

In all likelihood, this will result in at least one 16 seed defeating a 1 seed. We’re not trying to be right; we’re trying to have some fun.

Midwest Region – Round of 64

Play-in game: No. 16 Liberty Flames vs. No. 16 NC A&T Aggies

This is a tough one. The school’s nickname is the Flames but its logo mascot is an Eagle. Do we go with the fire element or Sparky the Eagle? Also, how strong are the flames? Are we talking forest fire or just a campfire? Similarly, North Carolina A&T are the “Aggies.” What exactly is an “Aggie”? Their logo is a bulldog with a studded collar. I’m going to call Liberty an Eagle for these purposes and because it’s Liberty, no doubt Sparky the Eagle has higher powers. The Eagle with higher powers will defeat a bulldog, even one with a studded collar. Advantage: Liberty

Play-in game: No. 11 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. No. 11 St. Mary’s Gaels

We had to do a bit of research on this one because really, what the hell is a “Blue Raider”? The MTSU website provides us this story behind the nickname, which doesn’t really provide much insight. The mascot, “Lightning,” appears to be a winged creature of some sort. I give it a low FARM. As for the Gaels (a person of Irish or Scottish descent), we also need to look to the mascot representation for help. According to this article, the school introduced a new mascot before the 2008-2009 basketball season, with a “huge head, bulging muscles, wide grin and a not-so-big kilt,” replacing the more intimidating knight in shining armor.  Before the mascot change, St. Mary’s would have advanced. But with a big goofy smiling mascot versus a magical winged horse, we give the edge to MTSU. Advantage: Blue Raiders

No. 1 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 16 Liberty Flames

Poor Louisville. The overall number one seed suffers the ignominious fate of being the first ever number one seed to lose in the first, I mean, second round, to a sixteen seed, with a tough draw. It’s just math — the Eagles’ FARM is higher, especially when you factor in the higher powers. So long, Cardinals. Advantage: Flames

No. 8 Colorado State Rams vs. No. 9 Missouri Tigers

Rams are tough beasts and have a high FARM. But CSU got stuck with a bad first round matchup. Tigers are one of the highest FARM animals and are tough to beat. Advantage: Tigers

No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. No. 12 Oregon Ducks

Even though they won the Pac-12 tournament, not everything is ducky for Oregon. The 12 seed not only represents a travesty in seeding in reality, but a difficult matchup with a gun-toting, mustachioed cowboy in Oklahoma State. Man with gun defeats bird every single time. Advantage: Cowboys

No. 4 Saint Louis Billikens vs. No. 13 New Mexico State Aggies

I’m not quite sure what a Billiken is (you can read this post about the history of the SLU mascot) other than a creepy white creature with a really creepy smile. It may not technically have a high FARM, but in the case of the Billken, the F stands for Freaky instead of Ferocity. The Aggie is another generic nickname so we look to the school’s mascot for guidance. “Pistol Pete” is a pistol-packing cowboy. While he might take down the Billiken (his pistol is already drawn), there’s also a strong likelihood he would freak out at the sight of that nightmare fuel.  Advantage: Billikens

No. 6 Memphis Tigers vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

We love the flying horse of the Blue Raiders. Really, we do. But the horse has to come down sometime, right? And when it does, the tiger (crouching, perhaps) will be waiting for him. Tigers have a very high FARM. Game over, flying horse. Advantage: Tigers

No. 3 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 14 Valparaiso Crusaders

Sparta, the great Greek city-state known for its military prowess and peerless soldiers. Crusaders, fighters for God. This is a tough matchup which requires some next-level analysis. The Spartans’ mascot is a giant Spartan soldier, without a weapon. The Crusaders’ mascot is a knight with a shield but no sword. We’ve got a virtual FARM deadlock. We’re going with the Spartans because without them, we would never have had “THIS IS SPARTA!” unleashed upon us. That is seriously bad-ass. Advantage: Spartans

No. 7 Creighton Blue Jays vs. No. 10 Cincinnati Bearcats

In one of the more lopsided matchups in this region, it’s Bearcats over Blue Jays in a rout. This is not rocket science. Advantage: Bearcats 

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 15 Albany Great Danes

Who doesn’t love Great Danes? They are big and lovable and certainly a top dog. But in terms of FARM, they’re a little lacking in the F quotient (unless the F is for “friendly.”). As for Blue Devils, it’s easy to just advance them to the next round based on the fact they are “devils.” But it turns out the nickname is derived from well-known French soldiers, les Chasseurs Alpins, nicknamed “Les Diables Bleus.” If you’re named after French military, you get knocked down a peg in the FARM ranks. That said, they’re still named after soldiers with weapons, so they have a decided edge over the Great Danes. Advantage: Blue Devils

Midwest Region – Round of 32

No. 9 Missouri Tigers vs. No. 16 Liberty Flames

Well, Liberty, it’s been fun. Your Eagles with higher powers are no match for Tigers. Predatory cats crush birds. That’s it. Advantage: Tigers

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No. 4 Saint Louis Billikens vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys

Will the Billiken’s ability to creep out its adversary work once more against an armed opponent? Unlike the previous round when the Aggies’ Pistol Pete was unprepared and panicked at the sight of the freaky white creature, Oklahoma State’s gun-toting, mustachioed cowboy (also named Pistol Pete — seriously. But Oklahoma State’s Pistol Pete was introduced 30 years before New Mexico State copied it) is quick on the draw. Man with gun usually wins. Advantage: Cowboys

No. 3 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 6 Memphis Tigers

A sword, a sword, Sparty’s kingdom for a sword (or something like that). Without a weapon, Sparty is defenseless against the fierce Tiger. Tigers have a high FARM for a reason — they are tough to beat. Advantage: Tigers

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 10 Cincinnati Bearcats

As a combination of a bear and a cat, the Bearcats have a high FARM. However, this matchup against a group of French military heroes does not favor them. As mentioned above, men with guns usually win out over animals. Advantage: Blue Devils

Midwest Region – Regional Semifinals

No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. No. 9 Missouri Tigers

Are you detecting a pattern here? Man with gun meets animal. Man with gun wins. The Cowboy will defeat the Tiger. Advantage: Cowboys

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 6 Memphis Tigers

After a great run through all opponents, Tigers are now 0 for 2 in this region thanks to tough matchups against men with weapons. Once again, FARM doesn’t matter as much as who has a gun. Advantage: Blue Devils

Midwest Region – Regional Finals

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys

It all comes down to this — which group of men with guns do you think have a higher FARM? A gun-toting cowboy with a mustache or a group of French military men known for “their distinctive blue uniform with flowing cape and jaunty beret”? Against an animal, the French military men win. But against Pistol Pete? No contest.

Midwest Region Champion: Oklahoma State Cowboys

West Region – Round of 64

Play-in game: No. 13 Boise State Broncos vs. No. 13 LaSalle Explorers

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The only thing to check is if the Explorer is armed. Nope. The feather in the Explorer’s cap isn’t going to help fend off a herd of Broncos. Nice try, LaSalle. Advantage: Broncos

No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 16 Southern Jaguars

Poor Gonzaga. The Bulldogs finally secure that number one seed only to face off against a predator of the jungle in the first round. We tried to come up with some way for the Bulldog to defeat a Jaguar but it’s not happening. Advantage: Jaguars

No. 8 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. No. 9 Wichita State Shockers

Once again, this matchup required some research to see what exactly a “Shocker” is. According to this story on the Wichita State website, it came from many players earning money during the off-season harvesting (or “shocking”) wheat. The team’s mascot, WuShock (yes, WuShock), is a “big, bad, muscle-bound bundle of wheat.” This is not a tough one — the Panthers will shred the Shockers, no matter how big, bad or muscle-bound. Advantage: Panthers

No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels

This one was trickier than it would appear. Mississippi’s nickname is the Rebels and the logo/mascot for many years was “Colonel Reb,” an old Confederate man with a cane. In 2010, the University of Mississippi retired Colonel Reb and replaced him with its new mascot, the “Rebel Black Bear.” The Badger doesn’t have an extremely high FARM on its face, but Bucky could probably…um…badger the Black Bear into submission. Advantage: Badgers

No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats vs. No. 13 Boise State Broncos

Ah yes, it’s the first of our Wildcats to make an appearance in the brackets. Wildcats are tricky because they represent the general group that includes lions, tiger, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and bobcats. This required some deliberation, since we aren’t sure what type of wildcat can be found in Manhattan, Kansas. According to the school’s stylized logo, sharp fangs can clearly be seen in the wildcats’ mouth. They have a positive FARM but will this be enough to fend off a herd of stampeding broncos? We don’t think so. Advantage: Broncos

No. 6 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 11 Belmont Bruins

This bracket is chock full of Bears and Wildcats and we have another high FARM matchup here. We think the size of the brown bear proves too much for even the feisty Wildcat to overcome. Advantage: Bruins

No. 3 New Mexico Lobos vs. 14 Harvard Crimson

We’re not going to sympathize with Harvard, but being a color just does not cut it here. A first round matchup against Syracuse might be interesting, but against Wolves? Lobos have a high FARM. No contest. Advantage: Lobos

No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones

Sorry, Notre Dame, not even the luck of the Irish can keep you and your Leprechaun from being swept away by a Cyclone. It’s just physics. Looks like Iowa State is a lock to blow through the West Region. A Cyclone would destroy everything in its wake, no matter what form (person or animal). Advantage: Cyclones

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 15 Iona Gaels

A buckeye is a small nut that comes from the buckeye tree, the official tree of the state of Ohio. The Gael appears to be a pilgrim lumberjack type guy with a walking stick. Although neither of these mascots have positive FARM, a Gael can choke on a buckeye nut, so we’re giving the slight edge to Ohio State. Advantage: Buckeyes

West Region – Round of 32

No. 9 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. No. 16 Southern Jaguars

Panthers and Jaguars are both large, carnivorous cats with high FARM values. It’s too close to call. Since a jaguar could also be a panther, we’ll use that as the completely unscientific tiebreak. Also, since panthers are usually black, we’ll give them a slight advantage in the intimidation factor. Advantage: Panthers

No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 13 Boise State Broncos

Badgers are feisty but they are not big. A herd of stampeding broncos would prove too much, even for the most aggressive of badgers. Advantage: Broncos

No. 3 New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 11 Belmont Bruins

What a great matchup here in the Round of 32. Two predators with high FARMs. We were going to give the edge to the Bruins, but then we found this amazing clip from “Viking Wilderness” on Animal Planet which shows how a pack of wolves outsmarts the bears in the wild and steals their food. We’re sold. Teamwork wins out. Advantage: Lobos

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones

The Buckeye nut is no match for the mighty Cyclones. Even the Buckeye tree would succumb to the force of Mother Nature. Advantage: Cyclones

West Region – Regional Semifinals

No. 8 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. No. 13 Boise State Broncos

It was a great run for the Broncos, but it ends here. Panthers are big, strong, ferocious predators with FARMs higher than most. Advantage: Panthers

No. 3 New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones

Another tough break for the Lobos. Lobos have one of the highest FARM values, yet drew an impossibly tough opponent in the Cyclones. Once again, Mother Nature destroys everything in her path, including a pack of wolves. Advantage: Cyclones

West Region – Regional Finals

No. 8 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones

Like the Lobos before them, the Panthers simply don’t have enough to withstand the Cyclones’ power. Another tough break for the Lobos, whose high FARM isn’t enough to fend off this opponent. Once again, Mother Nature destroys everything in her path, including a pack of wolves.

West Region Champion: Iowa State Cyclones

And there you have it. The first national semifinal matchup is set: Oklahoma State Cowboys versus Iowa State Cyclones.

NEXT: South and East regions, Final Four & National Championship

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