#1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. #16 Hampton Pirates
So, in reality, Kentucky has a great team and was undefeated in the regular season and there is effectively no chance they'll lose this game, regardless of their opponent. The most the #16 seed can hope for is to put in a good showing and to face the wrath of Ashley Judd. Or Alison Lundergan Grimes instead, I guess.
But we are not in reality. We are in the mascot bracket, and feral Kentucky cats are not going to be much of a match for the delightfully Jaunty Blue Pirate of Destruction
#8 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. #9 Purdue Boilermakers
As always, my favorite aspect of Cincinnati making the tournament is the opportunity to point out that their mascot smells like buttered popcorn. Is that relevant to a fight to the death with, apparently, a train? No. It isn't. But it's fun.
|Fun fact: The butter flavoring gel pump at the movie theater is just chock full of binturong.|
I could invoke the longstanding rule that the higher seed gets home-field advantage (which would allow the Fightin' Binturongs to pick anywhere that wasn't on a rail line to face the Boilermaker, but that isn't how the Binturong wants to go through life. He wants the battle, even if it's against a few tons of steel and fury.
#5 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #12 Buffalo Bulls
I'm going to say that I really don't understand the city of Buffalo's aversion to just using the noble Buffalo as a mascot. At least, I guess, with Victor E. Bull, you're getting what you've paid for in that it's actually an anthropomorphic bull, rather than switching out the team name but still incorporating buffalo into the iconography (I'm looking at you, Sabres and Bills).
That said, this one's fairly quick. WVU's mountaineer calls to mind more of a hunter/trapper aesthetic than someone who's climbing things for sport, so I can't imagine a brightly colored bull will pose much challenge.
West Virginia advances.
#4 Maryland Terrapins vs. #13 Valparaiso Crusaders
I've got to give credit for Maryland for not just having a turtle, but picking a small subsection of turtledom and planting their flag.
|So, not so much "fueled with battle rage" as "angry at having been woken up".|
It'd probably help in this scenario if they hadn't picked one that, according to Wikipedia, doesn't really get to be larger than about a foot.
Valpo's Crusader may have a non-standard color scheme, but I imagine he's also got some sort of armored boot. Or a warhammer? He might have a warhammer!
|Pictured: Guy who probably has a warhammer.|
#6 Butler Bulldogs vs. #11 Texas Longhorns
And then there are matches like this where I don't want the mascots to fight. I want the mascots to team up and solve crime. The old, callous Texas Longhorn, a few weeks from retirement, is partnered with the young, idealistic bulldog and sent off to find out... something.
Probably something involving Big Red as a crime boss.
|Whee-hah! You'll never catch me alive!|
If they must fight, though, I'm not seeing a way for the bulldog to win. If nothing else, I'd think it's the longhorn in a "stepped on his opponent accidentally" KO.
#3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #14 Northeastern Huskies
I always worry that when I write this stuff, I come across as anti-dog. I'm not anti-dog. I love dogs. I am fully aware that if a Husky were angry with me, it would be able to tear me apart, without even really exerting itself. They'll run through the Alaskan wilderness dragging a sled; as of this writing, they're actually currently doing that. I can't do that. I can barely make it to my car in Chicago in the winter without breaking down in tears.
I don't have a shillelagh, though.
|For the sake of all Chicago, no one must ever introduce the shillelagh to Wrigleyville.|
Notre Dame advances.
#7 Wichita State Shockers vs. #10 Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana's fine. And I have nothing against the denizens of Indiana. Everyone I know from Indiana is, by and large, pretty awesome. That said, going with "residents of the area" as the mascot for your team always seems a little off. I don't doubt that the hardworking people of Indiana could put up a fight, but there's something to be said for mascot style.
In most matchups, that wouldn't be that big an issue. But most don't involve a Wheat Golem.
I'm sorry, Indiana. Wichita State takes it on chutzpah.
|I sort of wish there were a large genre of agricultural horror movies, and that WuShock rules as king.|
#2 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #15 New Mexico State Aggies
Ah, Pistol Pete. Or, rather, the NMSU Pistol Pete, as legally distinct from the Oklahoma State Pistol Pete.
|He seems kind of angry, and I don't understand how a man could be that angry and have that moustache.|
I like the Jayhawks. I'm sure that if I saw a mythical bird wearing shoes with buckles on them coming at me in a dark alley, I would weep and then die, preemptively. But as much as I don't wish to discredit the noble Jayhawk, this avatar of the Greater Pistol Pete Entity has a sweet moustache and some pistols. And you can't bring a beak to a gunfight.
New Mexico State advances.