#1 Kansas Jayhawks vs #16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
I'm sorry. I shouldn't announce my biases so blatantly. First, Kansas.
The Jayhawk isn't an actual bird, because birds naturally possess a sense that wearing buckles on your shoes is absolutely ridiculous and will naturally avoid doing so. Jayhawkers, on the other hand, were real abolitionists who got into border skirmishes with pro-slavery advocates during the Bleeding Kansas incidents, which would place them as one of the few team nicknames that actually have combat experience.
Dearest Kansas, why isn't this guy your mascot? Look at that hat. Magnificent.
A quick search also turned up this guy making a John Brown Jayhawk. John Brown was from Connecticut, so I'm not sure he counts as a Jayhawk, but that's pretty significantly more awesome than most of the mascot-inspired art I've come across in doing this bracket.
Big Red, on the other hand, is the Avatar of Joy. I don't know why I can't get over this thing. He's got a giant hinged head and apparently naturally forming shin guards and his design makes it impossible to find a picture where he doesn't look disturbingly happy. Maybe that's it. It's not just that he's giddy, it's that he's unnaturally giddy. Like the Hill in "Hilltopper" might be comprised entirely of the bones of his enemies.
Big Red knows your secrets and is positively overjoyed. Be afraid.
I have no idea how Big Red actually would fight, but that's what's frightening. In any case, "Hilltopper" implies superior tactical positioning, so we'll go with that.
Western Kentucky advances.
#8 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #9 Villanova Wildcats
Villanova actually narrows down what they mean by "Wildcat" which is unexpected and sort of helpful. The regrettably named "Will D. Cat" is some manner of mutant bobcat with unnaturally blue eyes which I'm assuming means this is the bobcat version of the Kwisatz Haderach.
Fear is the mind-killer.
On the other hand, the Villanova logo incorporating Will seems like it should have someone standing off to the side yelling at the cat to get down right now and running at him with a spray bottle.
HEY. HEY. STOP THAT.
The Tar Heels nickname continues to be unhelpful as "Tar Heel" just refers to a resident of North Carolina which puts this just this side of "Montreal Canadiens" in terms of redundancy. Rameses has got some pretty threatening horns, but when it comes down to it, it's a sheep.
It's close, but I think I'm going to have to say that Villanova's mascot is very, very slightly more threatening.
#5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. #12 Akron Zips
This bracket is turning out to be relatively ram-heavy. I wish I could say I was more intimidated by Rodney the Ram, but look at him.
He's got a heart-shaped nose. He looks like a giant teddy bear with post-factory horns thrown on. He seems like he might break into song, but not in a "my enemies lie vanquished before me" sort of way.
I have to hand it to Akron for just disregarding the idea that mascots need to make sense. The team itself is named after, as far as I can tell, a style of zippered galoshes which allows them pretty free roam with what to use as a mascot. Kangaroo would not have been my first guess. Kangaroos aren't, so far as I know, indigenous to northeastern Ohio, but my alma mater decided on a Gator despite being in northwestern Pennsylvania, so I'm not sure I can throw stones.
Sure, she's got a goofy beanie, but kangaroos can kick pretty hard and, once again, Rodney the Ram is more "adorable" than "menacing".
#4 Michigan Wolverines vs. #13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits
I don't want to disparage the noble Jackrabbit. It's probably got the advantage in terms of knowing when his opponent is approaching and in pure Kennywood terms, Jackrabbit is slightly more exciting than Racer, but without the intense pain of Thunderbolt as far as the wooden coasters go.
Not many people know this, but most Leporids are classic roller-coaster enthusiasts.
The mascot himself looks like something out of an After School Special, but I'm pretty sure that's just the backwards cap. But while he might be phenomenal at convincing eight year olds to not bully other ten year olds or talk to strangers, he really doesn't stand a chance here.
Wolverines have the same tendency that most dogs I've known have to completely disregard their own size when deciding to get into a fight. Wikipedia not only lists rabbits as their natural prey, but deer, caribou and elk. If this thing is capable of mortally wounding large, even-toed ungulates, a rabbit in a hat has no chance.