How far will Villanova's Wildcat go?

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Are you like millions of Americans this week, struggling to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket that will win your office pool? Tired of just penciling in the top seeds to make the Final Four all chalk. Do you want to predict the field of 68 in a more, shall-we-say, definitive way? Well this is for you, as we’ve picked the NCAA tournament based on mascot fights. To the death.

The Villanova Wildcats might be the top team in the Big Dance this year, but would a Wildcat win in a fight over the other mascots in the field? Sharpen your claws, because we’re about to find out.

Mascot breakdown: Animal, Human or “Other”

So. Many. Wildcats. Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Of the 68 teams in the 2017 tournament, 21 have mascots that are human*, 41 have an animal as their mascot, four are represented by what we’ll call “celestial beings” — your Blue Devils, Demon Deacons and the like — and two teams are named after weather.

(* – We opted to include the Gaels of both Iona and St. Mary’s as human, not celestial beings, because while the Iona Gael is something resembling a leprechaun, the website describes him as “a spunky character” with no reference to magical powers. The St. Mary’s Gael is ostensibly just a strong Gaelic man, so they are both being counted as human, which, as you’ll see, is not good in most fights.)

Of the 41 animals, just seven are cats — five of which are Wildcats — while only four are dogs. There are 14 different birds — three Eagles and two Golden Eagles lead the way — while animals like Wolverines, Badgers, Bearcats and other small ferocious beasts went into the “other animals” category with Bison, Jackrabbits Terrapins and Gators. There are 14 “other animals” this year, not including the Bears. Or Bruins.

The 21 humans are mostly the gun-toting lot, but there are some other weapon-wielding warriors, like the Seminoles and Blue Raiders. There are some regular citizens, too, like the Commodores, Flyers and Boilermakers — though that could be a reference to the actual train, not a man building and/or conducting the train.

Pick the Wildcats

YouTube video

If you’re really unsure of who to pick in this year’s tournament, the safe money is with the Wildcats.

The Villanova Wildcats are the top overall seed, ranked No. 1 in the East. The Arizona Wildcats are the No. 2-ranked team in the West, a region from which most pundits are picking them to advance to the Final Four.

In the South, the No. 2 seed is Kentucky, the Wildcats many think could be the most talented team in the country. The other two Wildcats would be a bit more of a stretch to get to Phoenix, as Kansas State is one of two No. 11 seeds in the South Region — playing a play-in game in Dayton — while the last Wildcat is Northwestern, seeded No. 8 in the West.

There is no Wildcat in the Midwest, but there are Catamounts, as Vermont is the No. 13 seed. There are also Wolverines, which are kind of like Wildcats. Maybe?

East Regional Mascot Fight

Villanova doesn’t make it very far.

While other Wildcats fare better in the first round, Nova is up against either a Mountaineer (read: woodsy dude with a gun) or a Privateer (read: dude on a boat probably also with a gun).

The “dude with gun” tops the Wisconsin Badger in the next round too, then beats the East Tennessee St. Buccaneers, who beat the Virginia Cavaliers in the second round, if only because of the hat and moustache.

It’s a goatee now, but it’s still bad. Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The USC Trojans make a deep run from the play-in game, desecrating the Providence Friars before slicing up the Mustangs of SMU. (Note: it says Providence, not USC because thanks NCAA.)

New Mexico St. is the Aggies, but their mascot has a gun, so he’s clearly an angry agriculturist, one who surely isn’t taking too kindly to a Baylor Bear on his land. We went with USC in the next match up because while New Mexico St.’s mascot does have a gun, a Trojan is far more battle tested, and the shield should be able to stop a small pistol.

Devils always win in these types of fights.

But it matters not, Aggie or Trojan in the Sweet 16, as Duke beats the Troy Trojans, Marquette Golden Eagles and, again, the Trojans of USC en route to a match up with the Mountaineers of The Mount. A devil? Yeah. A devil.

Winner: Duke

West Regional Mascot Fight

The Arizona Wildcats get to the third round, beating the North Dakota Hawks and the VCU Rams. That was a tough one to pick, but we went with claws over horns. Maybe we got the Hawks over Wildcats wrong. We were afraid to search that fight on YouTube.

Alas, on the bottom half of that bracket, it’s Florida State that advances, toppling the Eagles of FGCU before facing the Musketeers of Xavier. And here’s why: The FSU mascot carries a spear with him, but the Xavier mascot seems to have forgotten his musket at home. Advantage Seminoles.

I mean…this guy isn’t winning a fight. But a real leprechaun would.

On the top half of that bracket, we picked the Jackrabbits of S. Dakota St. over the Bulldogs of Gonzaga because bulldogs are lazy. Northwestern is another Wildcat that advances, as a Commodore is just like a random businessman and I’d take a wildcat in that fight any day.

But the Fighting Irish get through, as the diminutive tricksters beat the Princeton Tigers, then topple the gun-toting West Virginia Mountaineers in a real tussle. The Wildcats of Northwestern might be able to beat a Jackrabbit, but not a leprechaun. Notre Dame advances, and wins over the Seminoles too.

Winner: Notre Dame

Midwest Regional Mascot Fight

Do. Not. Mess. With. Weather.

The great shame of this region is that the Miami Hurricanes have to face the Iowa St. Cyclones in the Sweet 16, because both of those nicknames are Final Four caliber.

In the bottom half of that region we see the Rhode Island Rams advance over the Creighton Blue Jays and the Iona Gaels. Again, a magical man would beat a ram, but a regular small Gaelic man? No shot.

Oklahoma St. Cowboys advance over all mascots without guns until they face Miami, which toppled Iowa State for really no reason other than this classification of tropical cyclones from the National Hurricane Center:

  • Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
  • Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
  • Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.

A cyclone is a hurricane in other parts of the world, but this tournament is in America, so the tiebreaker goes to Hurricanes. Besides, a tropical cyclone with higher winds is a hurricane. By default, a hurricane “a strong tropical cyclone” so the Hurricanes get the nod.

An ibis wouldn’t get through the first round. But a hurricane is a title contender. Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: Miami

South Regional Mascot Fight

Texas Southern Tigers over Tarheels, but not over Pirates. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s where we are in this bracket as fatigue has set in for all the mascots and those who write about mascots. Middle Tennessee is the Blue Raiders, which wins over the Golden Gophers and Winthrop’s Eagles — we went with an Eagle over a Bulldog because if a Jackrabbit can beat them… —  but the Seton Hall Pirates swashbuckle the Blue Raiders because any Raider than needs to define itself by a color has insecurities that will surely come out in battle.

The internal struggle of a demon who is a deacon. Or is it a deacon who is a demon?

The bottom half of that region says Kansas St. but it’s their first round opponent, Wake Forest, that makes the Final Four run. The Northern Kentucky Norse get a win, but lose to the magical wheat man known to support the Wichita St. Shockers. The Demon Deacons cut down the Shockers in the Sweet 16, then trounce the Pirates in the Elite 8.

Winner: Wake Forest

Final Four

The Demon Deacons should beat the Hurricanes, but the extra game and internal strife of a demon fighting a deacon, and vice versa, has Wake Forest too tired and distracted to beat an active Hurricane. Miami advances.

They face Duke, because there’s no way a merry prankster like a leprechaun is beating a devil in anything, even if the devil is blue.

And our champion, which seems to happen every year a bracket of mascot fights gets filled out, is Duke. Because evilness of this nature can never be bracketed.

Ugh. Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports