But every year, someone says something vaguely encouraging right before it's time to start this and I wind up spending a week writing frantically to break down completely meaningless matcups pitting one mascot against another in a fight to the death. Or whatever's more amusing to me. If I do the play in round (which I'd planend to skip but can't given the participants), there's 67 matchups, which means I'm thinking about mascots more than is probably healthy. Nonetheless, I was told I should do this, and it seems like a good way to force myself to post something again. So we're going to have the 5th Annual Murphspot Mascot Bracket. I'll try to interlink these posts as much as possible, so that if you're somehow coming into this late, you'll be able to determine how we've gotten where we are. I'm not promising that this'll be up in time to use as an actual bracket this year. You shouldn't use this as your guide for filling out your bracket if you have paid someone money for the privilege of filling out a bracket, as this is nonsense.
Hold on to your Hilltoppers, folks.
Post #1 - Play In Round
#16 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils vs. #16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Before starting this bracket, I'd more or less decided that I wouldn't be including the play-in round. Most bracket pools don't ask you to predict them, and skipping over the round entirely would shave four rounds off this writeup and give me a fighting chance at getting it all up before the tournament's over. And then I saw who the first play in round involves.
I missed you, Western Kentucky. For my money, there's not a mascot in the NCAA who is more of a gleeful muppet than Big Red. Between his giant Pac-Man head and inexplicable thigh-pocket, Big Red inspires joy and unrelenting terror in all of us, depending on whether you have any hope of escape. The Delta Devils are fine, I guess, and I'msure they've got some sort of supernatural evil/mischeivous powers that could cause some trouble if I were letting them past this first round, but they also remind me of Delta Burke and Designing Women was never particularly threatening. If the name somehow evoked Jean Smart or Meshach Taylor, we might be on to something, but I really don't see how that's going to be enough to get me to advance Mississippi Valley State past Big Red and the Hilltoppers (which had better be the name of a student-run Big Band somewhere in Western Kentucky.)
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers advance, and the commonfolk rejoice.
#14 Brigham Young Cougars vs. #14 Iona Gaels
One nice thing about doing the play in round is that allows me to learn about schools and their accompanying mascots that I had no idea existed before. There's only so much I can come up with about, say, the Duke Blue Devils before I feel like I'm repeating myself from previous years (which probably doesn't matter as I'm guessing I lack multi-year readers, but feels wrong). Enter the Iona Gaels. It turns out that Iona is an island in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, in addition to being a Catholic University in New Rochelle (which I believe is where The Dick Van Dyke Show is set). I wish I could give them points for the whiskey and puffins that inhabit the former, but according to the rules of the bracket that I'm making up on the spot, I can't.
Listen, cougars are big and terrifying, and I have no idea if pointing to another wall with a laser pointer is at all effective. I'm guessing it's not. I'd get into whether the Iona mascot has weapons, but, well, look at this.
GIVE IT WHATEVER IT WANTS.
I get it. Schools with human mascots will go with big foam rubber caricatures rather than a dude in a costume, because the latter looks as though they might not be officially affiliated with the school/society at large. But look at that smile. That is the stuff of nightmares. The way it's frozen on Killian the Gael's face is terrifying. Hell with winning the play in round, I'll just be happy if that lets me keep my skin where it is.
Iona Gaels advance
#16 Lamar Cardinals vs. #16 Vermont Catamounts
Catamounts! Cat-a-mounts! Catam-ounts. I'd thought this was just another name for the noble Puma, but apparently it's just a name for any medium-sized cat that hangs around mountains waiting for wayward explorers with tasty innards. Literally, it's just "Cat of the mountain" that got slammed together into Catamount. That's sort of disappointing, though I'm not sure why and I'm sure it's not the fault of the good people of Vermont.
The Cardinals are, for some reason, a popular mascot pick, though I'm not entirely sold on why. They're seed-eaters, so it's not as though they're going to fly down and tear the throat out of a cat o' the mountains and they're bright and have that fun crown, but that seems like it'd just make it easier for them to be seen. Lamar Cardinals sounds like a baseball player from the 1940's, but that's not who's up for the battle here. It's a fairly standard looking cardinal, though I do have to give Lamar credit for really defining the hell out of the eyes.
The Lamar Cardinal needs to get a good night of sleep. This is ridiculous.
Still, seed-eating bird versus one of many cats of the mountains doesn't really seem like a contest, does it?
Vermont Catamounts advance.
#12 California Golden Bears vs. #12 South Florida Bulls
I've been very outspoken in the past as to how much bears are basically monsters who will feel nothing as they tear you to pieces. That stands here, though apparently the California Golden Bear went extinct in 1921 when some Californians shot the last one. So I'm not sure I'm cool with them suddenly claiming to be really cool with the bear, but I suppose throwing it on their flag has got to count for something. Florida's flag doesn't have a bull on it, that's for damn sure. They've tacked their state seal onto it, which is fine and all but not really my cup of tea.
And the South Florida Hibiscus Flowers don't sound very threatening.
And while bulls do have that whole goring thing going for them, there are people that voluntarily get into an arena with bulls to stab them with darts and swords and generally be a dick to them until they're dead. I don't believe that happens so often with bears (or at least, Hemingway didn't see fit to write about bear/human fighting). So while Generic Bulls still exist where California Golden Bears do not, I'm going to go ahead and award this one to Cal.
California Golden Bears advance