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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mascot Madness 2014

Ever since Selection Sunday, the airwaves and the blogosphere have been filled with bracket predictions and game breakdowns. Well, I'll leave that serious stuff to others.  Banshee Sports is your leader for analyzing the mascots of March.  I know I'm a little late this year, but I present to you the complete breakdown of Mascot Madness 2014.

There were 68 total teams in the NCAA field.  This year, there were only 50 different mascots.  That is down from the 57 different mascots last year.  As usual, animal-themed mascots led the way with 29 different schools.  People-themed mascots were well-represented this year with 22 schools.  Natural disasters, supernatural forces and colors filled out the rest of the bracket.  Then there was the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Ohio State stands alone as the only mascot in the tournament that is simply a part of a plant.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack
In terms of a single mascot, the wildcat led the way with five separate schools.  The wildcat has been the most popular mascot for several years, but five entries is more than usual.  However, the lack of variety this year does not mean there was a lack of creativity.

South Region:  For the second year in a row, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Syracuse Orange are in the same bracket in the tournament.  In a vacuum, those are unusual mascots, but those schools have been March Madness staples for too long to really draw my attention.  The Albany Great Danes and the Dayton Flyers deserve strong consideration, but the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks get the nod for best mascot in the east region.  Lumberjacks is not just an unusual nickname on the surface.  It is an especially unusual mascot for a team named after the father of Texas.  When you think of lumberjacks, most people think of the Great Lakes or the Pacific Northwest ... not Texas.  So, good for SFA getting creative on this one.

Providence Friar
(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

East Region:  On the basketball court, a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed, but in terms of mascots, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were one of the best teams in the region.  The problem for Coastal Carolina is that chanticleer is really just a fancier word for the gamecock, the mascot of their in-state rivals at the University of South Carolina.  The Delaware Blue Hens were in contention, but just adding a random color to your animal does not score you any points.  And, the more I thought about it, hens really are not very tough or very appealing.  That makes the Providence Friars the best mascot in the south region.  I like it that a Catholic school founded by the Dominican order embraced its history, and I really like that Providence dresses up an oversized monk to roam the sidelines at games.

SDSU Aztec

West Region:  At first blush, the University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns seemed to be the clear favorite for best mascot in almost any region.  This would certainly be true if the mascot UL Lafayette mascot was an irate redneck with a French sounding name.  Unfortunately, UL Lafayette dresses up some weird looking pepper headed thing instead.  The North Dakota State Bison have championship pedigree with their mascot Thundar, but take a look at that San Diego State Aztec!  Anybody can dress up some fat kid in a puffy suit with a giant head, but not everyone can don traditional Aztec garb and look good doing it.  Plus, I think this guy adds an intimidation factor.  If this is what the non-athletes at SDSU look like, the guys on the team must really be tough.

Midwest Region:  On Selection Sunday, CBS deemed this region the "Glamour Region."  I don't think the commentators were talking about mascots, but the midwest region was loaded with mascot talent.  Two regional champions from last year are in this bracket in the form of the Wichita State Shockers and the St. Louis Billikens.  The Wofford Terriers were in good position to win this region, but they don't bring the real live Boston terrier to basketball games.  That left the door open for the Manhattan Jaspers to be the best mascot in the midwest region.  Manhattan College is creative in all areas of their name.  For starters, Manhattan College is actually located in the Bronx.  Instead of going the generic route for a mascot, Manhattan went with a specific man.  Manhattan is named after Brother Jasper, the man who brought baseball to the school in the 1800's.  According to legend, Brother Jasper invented the 7th inning stretch.  As a lover of ballpark hotdogs and beer, that's good enough for me.

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