Zach Piatt is a sophomore journalism major and writes “Dugout Chatter" for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every March, I get a little extra pep in my step. Not because the weather starts to cooperate, and not because baseball season is on the horizon. It’s because of the greatest sporting event known to man: March Madness.
If you’re like me, you fill out your bracket right after the teams are revealed on Selection Sunday. If you’re like me, you also fill out multiple brackets. One I fill out is my upset bracket. Another is what I stand by no matter what. One more has Purdue winning the whole thing any time the Boilers have a legitimate shot.
But there’s one bracket every year I have the most fun filling out. I pick the winners based on which team’s mascot would win in a fight.
The process is pretty exhausting, honestly. I always get into arguments with family and friends on why a badger would beat a bearcat or why a sweaty guy with a hammer would beat a Roman soldier.
I wanted to share my thought process on how I filled out this year’s mascot bracket with you all. Not only will it be fun, but it’ll open your eyes to how many schools’ mascots are either a wildcat or a bulldog.
Before we dive into it, I have a system I use to determine the winners. Initially, I look at the nicknames of each school. For example, Ball State’s nickname is the Cardinals. It’s that easy in most cases. However, sometimes a school’s nickname and mascot don’t match. Alabama’s nickname is the Crimson Tide, but its mascot is an elephant. In these instances, I look at the mascot. I also compare the mascots when they are the same thing. We’ll see a couple of these soon. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through them.
Normally, I ignore the First Four games because they don’t make sense. They’re basically play-in games for the teams the selection committee thought were the worst eight in the field. In this bracket, they matter.
The first game I had to look at was Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Prairie View. Each game usually takes me less than a minute to decide. This one took me about 20 minutes because wouldn’t you know it, there are two Fairleigh Dickinsons — both with different mascots and both located in New Jersey. One was the Knights, and the other was the Devils.
After perusing each team’s Twitter account and various online articles, I found out the correct school was the Knights. All that work ended up being useless in the end because Prairie View is the Panthers, and I have them beating the Knights.
The other three were simple. A bruin beats an owl, a bison beats an eagle and a sun devil beats a thunderbird. This is how most of them go. You’ll find out I don’t give birds too much credit. I like to think the mascots are grounded during these battles.
Round of 64
Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, and it’s amazing that its mascot would be a top seed too: Blue Devils. They’re moving on along with the Rams, Bruins and Tigers.
The Liberty Flames will top the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Flames’ mascot is an eagle, so I like to think of it as a fiery bullet of freedom.
I had to search what a billiken was. It’s basically a mythical creature of good luck, but the mascot looks horrifying. It beats a turkey either way.
The Golden Gophers of Minnesota will take down the Louisville Cardinals only because I think the gopher is more along the lines of the one who fought Popeye for his spinach.
Michigan State will fall to the Bradley Braves. This one is interesting because the Braves’ mascot is a gargoyle. I don’t know about you, but I’d be terrified of a living gargoyle.
The Golden Eagles vs. the Racers, which are basically racehorses, was a tough one. I went with the Eagles just because they’re golden.
Another interesting one was the Seminoles vs. the Catamounts, or cougars. I went with the Native American because in most pictures, Seminoles are on horseback.
Rounding out the winners of the west are the Panthers, Bears, Sun Devils, Norse, also known as Vikings, Wolfpack and Grizzlies.
I had to look up what a Gael was. The best definition I got was a Gaelic speaker, so I just assumed it’s a regular dude. It won’t beat a wildcat though.
Here’s an interesting one: Boilermakers vs. Monarchs. I don’t quite know what a boilermaker is, but Purdue Pete is essentially Paul Bunyan. A monarch is royalty, but Old Dominion’s mascot is a lion. I take a lion over a man any day.
Tennessee is the Volunteers. I know, so specific. Turns out they are hounds, and they’ll be losing to the Raiders.
Also moving on are the Cavaliers, Rebels, Badgers, Wildcats and Bearcats.
Who knows what an aggie is? Apparently, Utah State and New Mexico State have different opinions. Utah State’s mascot is a bull, and that beats a husky. New Mexico State’s is a cowboy, but that doesn’t come close to a tiger.
Iowa State vs. Ohio State is tough for me. Not because anything could come close to being less intimidating than a nut, but because I want to send Iowa State all the way even though I can’t. Iowa State’s nickname is the Cyclones, but its mascot is a cardinal. A bird beats a buckeye but not much else, definitely less than what a cyclone would.
Kentucky and Abilene Christian are both the Wildcats. This is when I compare the costumes. Abilene Christian’s looks way too friendly, so Kentucky’s wildcat wins.
The last winners of the round of 64 are the Tar Heels, Huskies, Panthers and Pirates. It goes faster after the first round, I promise.
Round of 32
A blue devil beats a ram. Billikens can’t compete with eagles, especially when they’re on fire. Tigers are too quick for bruins. Gargoyles will beat even the most golden of gophers.
Once again, big cats are better than bears, so the Panthers will move on. A Seminole will shoot down an eagle. As much as I’d love to see the Vikings go far, they’re no match for sun devils. A bear would take down a single wolf, but not a whole pack.
I find a guy with a sword to be more intimidating than a guy with a gun. Weird, but that’s me. A badger beats a wildcat because “Honey badger don’t care.” Lions would defeat wildcats with ease. A bearcat would beat a raider because I favor most animals over people in fights.
The Bulls will topple the Tar Heels in a game I would assume has plenty of charges. A tiger beats a dog, and a panther beats a bird. Also, I can’t move Seton Hall any further because I can’t picture Jack Sparrow beating a wildcat.
This is where the Eagles’ fire is put out as the Blue Devils march on. I still can’t get over the thought of a living gargoyle, so Bradley moves on against the LSU Tigers. This sets up a 1 vs. 15 seed.
A Seminole fighting a panther would be a sight to see, but I have to go with the Seminoles due to their grit and determination. A wolf pack can only fight off so much, and I think it meets its match against the Sun Devils. This will be a 4 vs. 11 matchup.
The Badgers will defeat the Cavaliers because again, animals are more dangerous than people. And again, lions will treat smaller animals like toys, setting up a 5 vs. 14 game.
A tiger can take down a bull despite its close-to-red coat. A panther beats a wildcat because of the size of the cat. This will be another 5 vs. 14.
I didn’t know how afraid I was of gargoyles until I filled out this bracket. I have them defeating the Blue Devils as the first team in the Final Four.
This is where grit can’t carry the Seminoles any further. The Sun Devils will move on.
These lions are cruising to the Final Four after taking down the third-straight smaller animal in a badger.
Big cat vs. big cat. Tiger vs. panther. Tiger wins.
Let’s take a quick break to see what caliber of teams we have in the Final Four. We have a 15 seed, an 11 seed, a 14 seed and a 5 seed.
On the left side, we have the fictional mascots. I have the gargoyles taking down the Sun Devils, their second-straight demon.
On the right we have the animals. I believe the lion has finally met its match with the tiger.
Flying stone demons. That screams so many chilling things. If a gargoyle can beat two demons, I’m sure it can make quick work of a tiger. Gargoyles finish on top.
So, there you have it. I enjoy filling out brackets like this. It probably won’t win anything in a contest, but what a genius I would look like if Bradley won it all.