#6 Arizona Wildcats vs. #11 Belmont Bruins
Again with the Wildcats. Arizona at least actually puts the person in the mascot suit in an actual suit rather than just an enormous Wildcat head. And he's depicted as having sharper teeth than I think actual Wildcats have, but I really don't know whether dental modifications are big in Arizona.
On the other hand, the mascot is surprisingly ugly. I'm not sure "weirdly sculpted eyebrows" or "emphasized whisker roots" are typical variations seen in nature, but let's say they are either because they'll intimidate possible threats or seeming like something you shouldn't bother eating because it will make you sick.
What, then, are we to make of the big floppy bucket hat? He looks like he's on his way to play Canasta. Other depictions more clearly show a blue Stetson, but if he's somehow ruined a Stetson into what's pictured above, I really don't have much faith he'd be able to put together an effective fight strategy.
Belmont, meanwhile, has a bear named Bruiser who appears in their logo to have decended into madness. Going by my previously established theorem ("Bears are basically monsters"), this isn't even close.
#3 New Mexico Lobos vs. #14 Harvard Crimson
A mascot is something for your team's fans to rally around; to claim as their own and to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. The name does that as well. A good nickname can relay your team's perceived strengths against those of your opponent and provide the opportunity for fan groups of the name format [NICKNAME][SYNONYM FOR GROUP], often "X Nation" or "Y Pack", where Y is a pack animal.
Harvard went with Crimson. Which, I mean, is fine if you're into Pantone's color space. I'm not sure it evokes blood so much as it evokes "sober consideration", but hey. Let's go to the mascot, John Harvard.
No, no. Don't get up.
The (Los?) Lobos are one of the many teams whose costumed mascot is significantly less impactful than their mascot's graphic.
The graphic is pretty fierce and pointy, while the best I can say about the mascot is that he's long-tongued, and I'm really not sure how that figures into the fight-or-flight reflex. Maybe it's poisonous. Then again, if it were, and New Mexico has poison wolves, I imagine that'd have shown up in Breaking Bad by now.
In the end, "clergyman/statesman" isn't really a match for "potentially poisonous wolf".
New Mexico advances.
#7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #10 Iowa State Cyclones
This close to St. Patrick's Day, I'm not sure whether to give Notre Dame a bonus for being vaguely topical or penalize for use of an overused cultural stereotype. I will say that it's a little refreshing that they don't go in with the big cartoony foam rubber headed monstrosity crowd and just have a guy put on a green suit with a yellow vest and call it a day.
Cy the Cardinal, on the other hand, comes to us from the depths of Nightmare. I'm not sure what it is about Cardinals specifically that leads mascot designers to jam a bunch of teeth in their mouths, but here we are again. Had they gone with some manner of tornado, we'd have an interesting matchup here. South Bend seems like it would probably be susceptible to that, but I'm not sure the Cheshire Cardinal here brings the same kind of terror.
In the end, one mascot is a small, if toothy, bird while the other is a grown man with a shillelagh.
Notre Dame wins.
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #15 Iona Gaels
Brutus and I haven't really gotten on well in the past. This mascot is all about who would be victorious on a field of battle, and frankly, a competitor that will only kill you if you eat him and a bunch of his kinfolk isn't really that threatening. I'm really, really trying not to let my feelings on the drive through Ohio affect my judgement here, but come on.
Brutus is better than interminable flat terrain and omnipresent State Highway Police. I guess
The Gaels are a surprisingly small enthnolinguistic group to be represented twice so far in the bracket. Killian the Gael doesn't mess around with armor, but does have the most maniacal grin in the tournament, which is pretty impressive given the subject matter. He's also got a nefarious-ish beard, if C. Everett Koop was your idea of "nefarious".
My choices here are a mascot that would grow into a shade-tree if he were buried and a mascot who has obviously buried things that the authorities will never find.
Iona advances. Or whatever needs to happen to satisfy Killian. Please don't leave me alone with him.