#16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. #9 Villanova Wildcats
Big Red's life is complicated.
Pictured: Angst and Uncertainty
No major hat manufacturers make Western Kentucky baseball caps in his size, so he's got to live with the one he's had when he was Smallish Red. He's got to go in for regular checkups to make sure his naturally occurring shin guards are holding up to a hard year of mascoting. And he's got to deal with misunderstanding and bigotry in the workplace; or did in 1997 in any case.
On the other hand, Big Red is a Hilltopper. My recollection of playground-King-of-the-Hill assigns some weight to that, as I'm pretty sure it's a brutal bloodsport that's not so much about gaining or maintaining lordship over Hill Whatever, but about staying alive long enough to come in from recess and get back to learning math without too much frontal lobe damage. My point is that this is Big Red's entire being.
Will D. Cat has probably been on hills and still has frighteningly blue eyes, but no amount of melange is going to prepare him for Big Red and his Jaw Hinge of Justice.
Western Kentucky advances
#12 Akron Zips vs. #4 Michigan Wolverines
The idea of naming your school's teams after rubber overshoes is something I can get behind. There's a tie to the local industry, bolstering school-city relations. There's a certain amount of ingenuity in working out a way to have your team names incorporate local industrial products without being completely ridiculous (the Akron Tires is somewhat less compelling than the Akron Zips). And there's the sheer chutzpah of going ahead with the name without making any sort of pretense to ferocity.
Yeah. We're named for galoshes. What of it?
And then on top of that to look at your teams and decide your mascot is going to be Zippy the Kangaroo demonstrates that Akronites do not care.
The Wolverines, on the other hand, don't currently have a costumed mascot. There was a mascot in the 1920s, named Biff, who was an actual wolverine. But the University had to stop using Biff as a mascot because wolverines are completely unhinged and Biff kept trying to attack his caretakers.
I'm going to say that Biff would be murderous enough to take out the Good Feelings Kangaroo up there.
#6 UCLA Bruins vs. #3 Florida Gators
Joe Bruin seems pretty laid back as far as half-ton murder machines go. I think it's the eyebrows.
If anything, that makes Joe a little bit more unnerving for me. Because I know he's built to tear things apart, and so the idea that he's actively suppressing that and throwing up a front of being genial and interested in your hobbies seems like it's designed to lull you into a false sense of security. And that's when he breaks out the razor sharp claws.
No! Go ahead. Tell me more about famous ukulelists. I'm totally listening. You didn't want your face, right?
Albert Gator is pretty vicious in his own right, at least at the start. By which I mean that gators in general are pretty vicious, but Albert is a gator who has chosen to go about his life wearing a tiny blue baseball cap and a particularly garish orange sweater. Like he's going over for dinner at his aunt's house but wants to make sure any passing hunters don't mistake him for an elk.
#7 San Diego State Aztecs vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
It's handy that the Aztecs went with an Eagle Warrior for their mascot.
Eagles are really good at being birds of prey. I won't take that away from them. If I were a small mammal or a turtle or something, I certainly wouldn't want to be hanging around eagles. I feel like they've got some resentment held over from their dinosaur ancestors that resents soft, furry animals and drives them to do everything in their power to wipe them from the planet.
The Aztec Warrior, on the other hand, clearly is showing some level of respect to the eagle by having that beak-helm. But the guy's also got an awful lot of feathers involved in that costume, which suggests that he's not only capable of killing birds, but pretty good at it. I'm inferring this, of course, because I'm awful at killing birds (to the extend that I've never killed a bird) and barely anything I own is fringed with eagle feathers.
I just honestly don't see how Florida Gulf Coast comes out ahead.
San Diego State advances.