Alabama State Hornets vs. Morehead State Eagles
If there's one thing last year's mascot bracket taught me, it's that a disproportionate number of schools are attempting to instill fear in their athletic opponents by using either an Eagle or a Wildcat. I'm a little disappointed that we're starting out with the birds already, but that's certainly no reason to take this matchup any less seriously. I really dislike hornets. They sting, they're intimidating, and they tended to nest on the bleachers at my high school, which made summers slightly less fun. That said, we've got an unpleasant wasp going up against a bird whose entire raison d'être is killing things and eating them. Sorry, Alabama State. Morehead State takes the play-in.
Bruce Lee is displeased, having just been informed that an Eagle is going to peck his eyes out through that mask.
#1 Louisville Cardinals vs. #16 Morehead State Eagles
We've got one game decided (that typically doesn't even count for an office bracket) and I'm already on edge about the number of birds in this tournament. That said, I've seen cardinals. They're brightly colored, sing and eat seeds and have that nifty little plume thing on the top of their heads, and if it weren't for them, I wouldn't have just learned, via wikipedia, what a "passerine" is. That said, I'm not sure something which hangs out in woodlands and is known for being both easy to spot and not eating things that aren't seed-ish is going to be able to take on something that's got so much experience nabbing fish out of the water in flight, not to mention holding an olive branch and enough arrows to make Oliver Queen take notice while apparently hovering. Morehead State advances again in the biggest upset in NCAA history.
#8 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #9 Siena Saints
This one's tough. "Saints", presumably, refers to people who have been canonized, as Siena College is a Franciscan institution. The mascot, though, instead of being "Saint Andrei the Iconographer" or "Saint Maximus the Confessor" is a St. Bernard. The dog. With the barrels and the saving people and the awkward Charles Grodin/Bonnie Hunt nonsense.
He's embarassed for you, Mr. Grodin
I'm tempted to go with the Buckeyes here (as buckeyes are poisonous), but I'm going to presume that the dog/Iconographer is going to instinctively avoid eating them, and rather just urinate on something. Also, if it hadn't been for Siena just now, I wouldn't know that Wikipedia has a list of Flying Saints, which I imagine has got to be useful for a basketball tournament. Plus, one of them's Saint Christina the Astonishing, and any connection to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Henry's Dream" album is going to get bonus points. Siena advances.
#5 Utah Utes vs. #12 Arizona Wildcats
The obvious thing to do here is to make a "What is a Ute?" joke and run with My Cousin Vinny humor. I'd like to avoid that, but there's two things that are stopping me. First, Ralph Macchio looks exactly the same as he did in 1992.
Forty-seven, my ass
It's only logical to assume he's still got the knowledge he'd picked up as the Karate Kid and would be able to take down a wildcat, which were established last year as not being particularly intimidating. Secondly, the "ute" line was delivered by Fred Gwynne, and Fred Gwynne is too awesome not to advance. Utes advance.
#4 Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. #13 Cleveland State Vikings
Demon Deacons is a pretty awesome name. One thinks of the climax of The Exorcist, or if you're a little bit less of a purist about what constitutes a demon, the scene in 28 Days Later where Cillian Murphy enters the church after waking up from his coma, both of which are going to be pretty intimidating no matter who you are. On the other hand, Vikings have swords, long boats with shields and oars and their own haplogroup. I think I might have to go with the beardy fellows with the axes over the unstable clergy. Cleveland State with the upset.
#6 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #11 Dayton Flyers
Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, I've got a pretty good understanding of West Virginia and their Mountaineers. Sure, the Alleghenies aren't as high or as steep as the Rockies, but I feel like if I wanted to learn Mountaineering under some sort of master Mountaineer, they'd do just fine.
I am positive this man knows things I do not. I am more than happy to keep it that way.
The Flyers, on the other hand, have flight, but that seems to be about it. They evoke little red wagons in my mind, which a Mountaineer would surely stomp on before using it to beat some elk to death and then wear them. Or something. They certainly don't provoke the same "dangerously insane/lives where no one could hear you scream" vibe that I get from the Mountaineers. West virginia moves on.
#3 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #14 North Dakota State Bison
"Jayhawk" is apparently a Civil war term adopted by Kansas abolitionists, combining a blue jay (which is noisy) and a sparrow hawk (which is apparently not, but I'm in no position to confirm). So, that's certainly a bonus. Bison, on the other hand, I've seen footage of and seem to be pretty huge, even if we do tend to kill them off in large numbers. If I go with "Jayhawk" as refering to the abolitionist group, they've probably got guns and could take down a bison. If I go with the "mythical but tiny bird", it's going to get stomped to death by 2000 pounds of bison. As much as I'd like to go with North Dakota here, I'm going to presume they mean the abolitionist (for the time being) and go with Kansas. What I don't envy is the sad truth that after the Jayhawk shoots the bison down, they're only going to be able to take 100 pounds of meat back to their wagon. And that's not enough to stop anyone from getting cholera or breaking a wagon axle.
#7 Boston college Eagles vs. #10 USC Trojans
Again with the Eagles. In this matchup, though, they're going up against people who have clearly fought in a war and undoubtedly have arrows (at least enough so that one could, of all places, wind up in Achilles' heel). I'd really, really like to go with Boston College here, because I don't want to be tempted to use that Orlando Bloom picture again down the line, but there's just no way. No matter how much preying that eagle is a bird of, it's not going to stand a chance against USC without at least bringing Odysseus into the mix, and I hear he's hard to get in touch with.
#2 Michigan State Spartans vs. #15 Robert Morris Colonials
I'd love to give this one to Robert Morris, if for no other reason than that I've got some twisted homer-ish desire to see Moon Township do something well. At first glance, I'd have to go with the Spartans, who've got that whole "prowess in battle" thing going on and have abs that could destroy Tokyo, according to Zach Snyder. Then again, the combination of the whole "culturally accepted pederasty" thing and the fact that Colonials likely have much longer range weapons (not that I'm sure what musket fire is going to do to a shield) makes it a close one. In the end, I'm going to have to give in to the advanced technology of the Colonials, along with the fact that I don't care how militant and brilliant you are, I'm not scared of NAMBLA chapters.
Next up: West Region, First Round