#1 Indiana Hoosiers vs. #16 James Madison Dukes
Indiana doesn't actually, technically have a mascot. By a long standing rule at the Murphspot Mascot Bracket that I made up just now, absence of a mascot allows me to assign you one based on your team nickname.
A "hoosier" is a resident of Indiana (evidently deriving from a word for hill folk), so I'm left with the entirety of the history of Indiana citizens to choose from.
Which obviously means that Indiana's mascot is Axl Rose.
Seen here cosplaying as mid-90s era John Popper.
For James Madison, we have a member of the nobility happens to be a bulldog, but presumably this sort of thing is hereditary and his subjects are less likely to revolt so long as they can continue to pay their taxes in soup bones and belly rubs.
The thing I don't get about His Grace Duke Dog is the regalia. His crown appears to be a wire frame that's sort of in the shape of a crown, but mostly attached to a skullcap. I have no idea what to make of that.
I've been hard on bulldogs for the most part in this bracket, but this one has subjects who presumably could be ordered to chase down Axl as punishment for Chinese Democracy.
James Madison advances.
#8 North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. #9 Temple Owls
NC State certainly has to gain some advantage for specifying that they're a full pack of wolves. On the other hand, their mascot is named Mr. Wuf (which is either an oddly formal way of referring to him or indicates that he's the Wood Shop teacher) and he's wearing a particularly unintimidating sailor cap.
It looks like something you'd have quickly embroidered at a theme park. I think I had a hat like that at one point, but that's different because Donald Duck is (at least in some contexts) canonically an Admiral, so it's got some legitimacy behind it.
Owls are freaky. They're vicious little birds, the neck thing is disturbing and they're harbingers of death in more than one culture. And Hooter the Owl is alarmingly maroon.
Cherry, technically, but we're positing a situation where he's fighting a pack of wolves to the death, not repainting his sun room.
As freaky as I find owls and as well justified as I think that unease is, it's a small bird of prey going up against a bunch of wolves, even if they are inclined towards silly hats.
North Carolina State advances.
#5 UNLV Rebels vs. #12 California Golden Bears
If you're going to win me over, comically large mustaches are a pretty decent starting point. I mean, he's an old man with dead eyes and Chronic Mascot Head disorder, but on the whole he's got a certain "Outlaw Josey Wales, the later years" vibe to him that leaves him well equipped for this sort of battle.
Oski the Golden Bear, on the other hand, looks like this.
Look, I get it. There are bears in California to the point that they put one on the flag, and so it makes sense that Cal's mascot is going to be a bear. This bear, though? He's got an unrealistically wide smile and he's wearing a cardigan. I'd be perfectly fine accepting Oski's offer to read me a book and give me a cup of sleepytime tea, but he's not really prepared for battle here.
I'm going to assume that Hey Reb wouldn't have been able to settle the area without some manner of taking out a bear.
#4 Syracuse Orange vs. #13 Montana Grizzlies
Let's hope that one of these days you get matched up against scurvy.
Otto's best shot here is that Monte the Grizzly doesn't like to eat oranges or will hold off doing so long enough for Otto to rot and give Monte a bit of food poisoning, but any battle that you enter into with the strategy of dying first and hoping you'll make your opponent sick isn't one that's going to be particularly successful for you.
Monte's a more intimidating bear as far as mascot goes, mostly because of the bandana.
#6 Butler Bulldogs vs. #11 Bucknell Bison
The costumed version of Butler Blue manages to combine a bunch of elements from all the other dog-themed mascots from around the bracket in the most offputting way possible. He's got Georgetown Jack's little hat, Albany Damien's monogrammed collar tag (though Butler Blue has evidently either taken a bite out of his own tag or gotten into a fight with one of the other dozen bulldogs in this thing), the standard spiked collar like he's selling Manic Panic as his day job and he's wearing a shirt and shoes, but no pants.
That's somehow more disturbing to me than Jack, who's just nude. Listen, I've seen dogs wear shirts before, and I may have even seen a dog wear booties, but those dogs weren't anthropomorphic. Butler Blue just looks like he's doing this whole mascot business as some sort of compulsion, and it makes me sad.
Bucky the Bison has the decency to dress for the competition and the standard mascot giant head isn't even that odd looking, because bison have enormous heads. They're enormous animals. And I think, if they ever ran into a pantsless bulldog in the wild, they'd have the sense to just run it the hell over.
While giggling his giant head off.
#3 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. #14 Davidson Wildcats
Every year, my brain makes the same connection between the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles and I'm just going to keep running with it because it allows me to incorporate Jerry Van Dyke into the mascot bracket.
In order to avoid taking sides, Jerry Van Dyke is now the Murphspot Mascot Bracket Mascot
The Davidson Wildcats mascot (uninspiringly named "Mr. Cat" like he's in a particularly ineffective version of the Witness Protection program) puts a lot of evidence into the whiskers and his mighty Cheeks of Justice.
I've mostly established my skepticism over the popularity of the Wildcat as a mascot and my willingness to believe that for small opponents, at least, eagles are going to be able to just swoop down from the heavens and take care of business. So, rather than continuing here, I'll just point out that (with the exception of the obvious differences between golden eagles and bald eagles), Marquette's mascot reminds me of Eagleman.
I mostly just wanted to freak you all out. Enjoy.
#7 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. #10 Colorado Buffaloes
The Fighting Illini haven't had a mascot since Chief Illiniwek was retired in 2007. Despite the Sioux regalia, it turns out that "Fighting Illini" referred to Illinoisans who fought in the first World War, but as long as we're tracing things back, we'd eventually get to the Illinois Confederacy from which "Illinois" derives, so we're back to a group of Native American tribes (which, ironically, do not include the Sioux).
Ralphie the Buffalo, on the other hand, is both a live and costumed mascot who seems pretty pleased with life. He's also got the shirt-and-shoes-but-no-pants thing, and I'm tempted to assume this is some sort of pan-Mascot protest of draconian convenience store dress code policies.
So what do we do? The Happy-Go-Lucky Buffalo named Ralphie or the team which doesn't have a mascot but whose last mascot was representative (in a roundabout sort of way) of a people who would have absolutely been able to take down the buffalo that were native to the region?
I don't believe I can give the victory to a mascot that hasn't been used for six years. If Illinois gets a new mascot, we can talk, but as this is entirely mascot based, it's got to go to the one that is actually a mascot.
#2 Miami Hurricanes vs. #15 Pacfic Tigers
Whether we're talking about a violent storm system or an overly strong rum-based drink, Hurricanes are pretty destructive. And Miami would have done pretty well if they'd been able to figure out a way to have a costumed Hurricane.
Pictured: Not a hurricane
They didn't, though. They went with a white ibis named Sebastian. And that would be perfectly fine, if Pacific's mascot were a small crustacean or fish. I don't mean to disparage the noble Ibis; it's difficult to come up with a way in which to have a reasonable mascot that's actually a storm system and "local marsh-dwelling bird" is quite a lot better than what the Carolina Hurricanes went with
Stormy the Ice Hog. This makes me miss the Whalers.
Pacific's mascot is named Power Cat and is not messing around.
Yeah, that is going to be able to eat a medium-sized marsh bird.