UConn Huskies mascot, March Madness

What makes a mascot special? George Bagwell ranks all of the March Madness mascots, 68-1.


Mascots are an integral part of March Madness. Without them, the proven best way to fill out a bracket wouldn’t exist. 68 mascots will patrol the sidelines this month, some better than others, some unoriginal, and some that will be witnesses to instant classics while watching through the eyes of a costumed dog or cat. 

To rank these mascots, two categorical metrics were used: originality and fun factor. Oh, and author bias. Just kidding. This is the most objective list to come out of March Madness in decades, clearly. This writer will be perpetually splitting hairs trying to figure out if a Sun Devil is superior to a Blue Devil or if a cougar is the same subspecies as a Catamount. Spoiler alert, I won’t. This is a fun list for anyone tired of seeing analytics and stats regurgitated 24/7 on every major cable network until the search for a perfect bracket is finally and mercifully ended. Without further ado, the mascot ranking:

68-59: Any use of “Wildcats” or “Tigers”

This category eliminates Arizona, Auburn, Texas Southern, Kentucky, Northwestern, Memphis, Missouri, Princeton, and Kansas State. Sure, big cats are cool. But how fun is a Wildcat or Tiger when they’re facing another Wildcat or Tiger team? Unoriginality is not fun. For example, Arizona plays Princeton in the first round. A classic Wildcat v. Tiger matchup. If Arizona beats Princeton as predicted, they’ll likely play Missouri. Another Wildcat v. Tiger matchup! No originality there, and the fun factor doesn’t hit the same the second time around. Note to any future universities: there are more cats than just Tigers and the vague but simple Wildcat. 

58-55: Any use of “Bulldog”

This category eliminates UNC-Asheville, Gonzaga, Mississippi State, and Drake. I’ve never been a fan of his music anyway. While statistically just as original as “Wildcat” in this bracket, the Bulldog programs have the upper hand: Bulldogs can be petted. Being able to be petted increases the fun factor of a mascot, and neither Tigers nor Wildcats can be petted without bodily harm. Gonzaga’s tournament woes continue! Early exit stage left, Bulldogs. 

54-53: Utah State and Texas A&M Aggies

If creating mascots were a creativity contest, Texas A&M receives an “F” for “Aggies”. It’s the Oakland Athletics of the college sports world. An aggie is defined as a student or alum of an agricultural institution. Thus, anyone at Texas A&M could be considered an Aggie. But they also have a border collie as a mascot? Where did that come from? Is it considered an Aggie as well? Why not change the mascot to Border Collies? That would rank #1 on my list. Please take notes, Texas A&M. And Utah State gets an “F” too for cheating off Texas A&M. It’s not even an agricultural school. Y’all aren’t even Aggies. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.

52-51: Houston and College of Charleston Cougars

A cougar is more acceptable as a mascot than a tiger or wildcat, but 2 schools out of 68 are deemed as such. That’s a 2.9% Cougar Rate and enough to deem unoriginal. A cougar is a fun animal, make no mistake. They seem pettable, which works in the fun factor. But Houston and Charleston both have NO COUGARS on campus. Why not go with “Dolphins” or “Dunes” for Charleston or “Interchanges” or “Humidity” for Houston? There was potential for both schools, but they chose Cougars and will have to live with their decisions. 

50-49: North Carolina State and Nevada Wolfpack

Similar to the Cougars above, the Wolfpack programs suffer when it comes to originality. 2 out of just 68 teams having the same name is unacceptable. And it all could have been avoided had one school simply agreed to go by “Wolves” or the grammatically improper “Wolfs”. But instead, the North Carolina State Wolfpack and Nevada Wolfpack have to share a name. Wolves are also incapable of being petted, which cuts into the fun factor. However, they’re on opposite sides of the bracket, so the Selection Committee respected Wolfpack culture enough to let each team have its own pack territory. 

48-47: Oral Roberts and Marquette Golden Eagles

In a tragedy much like the one above, Oral Roberts and Marquette both chose to be Golden Eagles in an attempt to be different. But if one was simply the Eagles, the bird, or the band, (side note that “Hotel California” is maybe the most overrated song ever) then both teams would be better off and higher in the rankings. The originality factor strikes again. The teams do get points for geographical accuracy and bird specification, though. The golden eagle is found in both locations, so at least their mascot has at least a chance of being found on campus. But specifying a bird subspecies can only take a program so far. Shaka Smart early round exit alert. 

46-45: Saint Mary’s and Iona Gaels

I had to look up what a Gael was, and I determined it was a “member of the Gaelic-speaking peoples inhabiting Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.” Thank you, Oxford Languages. Love you too. An oddly specific mascot, but one that’s seemingly common enough to place two teams in the tournament. Originality factor strikes for the maybe final(?) time this year. Here’s the intrigue, though. If both Gaels win their first-round matchup, they will face each other in the second round. We could have a Gael v. Gael matchup. That sparks my interest, and ups the fun factor. Alas, unoriginality strikes down the hand of creativity again. That’s up to 23 teams with the same mascot this March. Unacceptable numbers for serious mascot bracketeers like myself.

44-43: Kennesaw State and Florida Atlantic Owls

We finally reach the last round of schools copying each other’s mascots, and it ends with the Owls of Kennesaw State and Florida Atlantic. Yeah, they’re the same name and thus unoriginal, but they’re owls. I know a few things about owls as cbbreview.com’s resident ornithologist, (I’m not but I pretend to have a niche interest in owls) and that includes the fact that owls are some cool cats. They’re not actual cats, but they’ve got that undeniable swagger that comes with being nocturnal. They protect farms from pests such as insects and mice, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They aren’t big enough to swoop down and pick up house pets like eagles and other large birds have the ability to, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t even if they were big enough to do so. Owls are cool like that. But the issue is that we’re talking about multiple owls here. Two owl teams out of 68 programs. That’s a 2.9% Owl Rate. Too high! Early exit for FAU and NMTC darlings Kennesaw State. 

42: Alabama Crimson Tide

What are we doing here, Alabama? Are we the Crimson Tide, or are we the Elephants? Is it just a color? Or is it referring to the increasingly worrisome algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico known as red tide? After looking it up, it’s apparently an old football reference from back in the day. Odd. But we’re playing basketball here, so the fun factor is registering a “lame” for this mascot. (Side note, but Auburn does the same thing with the Tigers and “War Eagle” and I’m just waiting for Alabama public universities to make up their minds on which animal/football reference/marine occurrence are actually their mascots.)

41: Baylor Bears

Baylor leaves me on the edge of my seat. Are there bears in Waco? I don’t think so. So what kind of bear is it? Is it a grizzly? Is it a polar bear? A spectacled bear? We need to specify, Baylor. It could be any type of bear. By leaving it up to the imagination, it does allow me to claim it to be any type of bear I would like, and that ups the fun factor a bit. Being able to choose my favorite bear means I can imagine a koala as the mascot. That’s a double-edged sword, though, because the inability of the university to choose a specific bear means I have no idea if the bear is a cool bear or not. I give Baylor points for alliteration, but it’s too simple to put it higher. 

40: UCLA Bruins

I don’t see much difference between Baylor’s and UCLA’s mascots, as they’re basically the same animal. But the Bruin has a certain aura to it that a simple “bear” does not have. It’s like a bear, but with Raybans on. It knows it can rock the shades, too. But at the end of the day, it’s still just a bear with Raybans. It’s not an animal I could grab a beer with, (although I’m 19 and can’t grab a beer with any mascot) and I’m still counting it as similar to Baylor’s mascot, which reeks of unoriginality. A college in Los Angeles has plenty of potential in terms of mascots, and settling on “Bruin” seems lame.

39: Purdue Boilermakers

I was split on Purdue, because they rank high in originality, but are so low on the fun factor. A boilermaker is unique, and it makes sense since Purdue is a good engineering school. But it’s probably the least fun mascot in the tournament. It’s just a regular dude that installs boilers occasionally. That’s not fun, and while I appreciate the blue-collar work ethic of the man behind the boiler, the actual mascot costume is enough to give people nightmares if y’all have seen him. If the name wasn’t so rare and unique, it would be last. But the originality is enough to move it into the top 40. 

38: Pitt Panthers

Pitt gets a pass here because of alliteration. “Pitt Panthers” rolls off the tongue in a nice way, so that moves it up a bit in the rankings. And a panther is a somewhat fun animal. But make no mistake. It’s still a cougar. It’s sneaky, I’ll give it that, but if you include “cougars” and “panthers” in the same category, there are 3 variations of the puma concolor species in the tournament. There are actually four if you count the Catamounts of Vermont, which means the panther/cougar/catamount category is close to the Bulldog category in terms of unoriginality. But since the names are slightly different, I won’t treat the Pitt Panthers as harshly as I did the Cougars or other big cats. 

37: Vermont Catamounts

Vermont is another fatality via various puma concolor nicknames, but they get the highest ranking out of the 4 teams because I consider catamount to be the most unique version of the species. However, there are no Catamounts, panthers, or cougars in Vermont. I checked. So the geographical accuracy is a bit suspicious. It’s still a Catamount, which is a cool, maybe pettable animal, but it has the potential to inflict harm as well. But we’ve been over this animal 3 times already, so at this point, we can call ourselves cougar experts and move on. 

36-34: Kansas Jayhawks, SEMO Redhawks, and Iowa Hawkeyes

All variations of Hawk are covered here because I think they’re all pretty much the same. I will be attacking them individually, though. A Jayhawk isn’t even a real bird, it’s just a mash-up of a blue jay and a sparrow hawk. Don’t ask how they’re made. A Redhawk for Southeast Missouri State is, from my best guess, a red-tailed hawk, which is a dope animal. They keep squirrel populations down and are basically diurnal owls. Cool birds and they’re also that bird screech you can hear in old westerns. But they’re too similar to the other two here to be any higher on the list. For Iowa, Hawkeye basically means a person from Iowa. I’ve never met someone from Iowa, so it’s certainly a rare mascot. But it’s also a bit boring, in the same vein as “Aggies” or “Athletics”. It’s like the university looked around the room and wrote down what they saw. 

33-32: Michigan State Spartans and USC Trojans

When it comes to ancient Greek-Mediterranean civilizations, there are two staples that seemingly are always chosen as a mascot: the Trojans and the Spartans. Sure, they fought in the Trojan War, but there were totally more than two city-states and these two are the only ones that ever get any love. If Norfolk State had won against Howard in the MEAC Championship, we’d be talking about two Spartan teams in the Big Dance and an unacceptable 2.9% Spartan Rate. If Troy had won the Sun Belt, we’d be talking about two Trojan teams in the Big Dance and an unacceptable 2.9% Trojan Rate. Michigan State and USC play a dangerous game by continuing to go by the two most-common mascots from their era, and they’re lucky that they’re the only two teams with their names in the dance. So, I came up with safer, more fun alternatives. They could be the Athenians, maybe. Perhaps the Thebians? No college team in D1 is either of those, and it would guarantee a top 10 nickname in CBB Review’s mascot rank list. Until they listen though, I’ll be forced to slot them middle of the pack in this list.

31: Fairleigh Dickinson Knights

The Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson are the only Knights in the tournament, so they get points for originality, but they’re not super high on the fun factor. Knights are all-business, and they’ve got a bunch of menial work to get done for their king before dying unceremoniously in the Hundred Years’ War in the middle of the French countryside. That doesn’t sound too fun to me. A few of the lucky ones get to ride horses though, and horses are cool for sure. At the end of the day though, Fairleigh Dickinson has an original nickname that happens to lack in the fun factor department. 

30: Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State’s mascot confuses me because at first, I thought a Nittany Lion was some Pennsylvania slang for cougar/panther/catamount, but apparently, it’s named after Mount Nittany, a mountain that the Penn State campus lies beneath. If the campus was on the mountain, that would be cool, but it’s just at the foot of the mountain, which is still cool but not as cool as being on it. That also means a Nittany Lion, if one were to exist, would NOT be found on campus and instead would be found above it on Mount Nittany. Penn State loses a few points there because if I’m coming to the campus, I expect to see a Nittany Lion while walking through University Park. I would assume a Nittany Lion would not make a good pet if I assume it to be a regular-sized lion. But Lions are still cool, and they’re better as a mascot than the overused, oversaturated, “Tiger.” I don’t think they get the credit they deserve, and I really enjoyed the 1994 edition of Lion King. But there are some really good, more deserving mascots in this tournament, which leaves Penn State at 30.

29: Creighton Bluejays

As previously mentioned, the amateur ornithologist in me gives major kudos for correct bird facts. But Creighton not separating “Blue Jays” into two words like its scientific name and squishing it together in one word as “Bluejays” is a foul and means no kudos are awarded to Creighton. Plus, blue jays are birdbath bullies, as they act aggressively and scare off songbirds. That could be good on the basketball court, as it would help to ward off upsets, but they are nuisances in the outside world. The “Bluejays” get points for originality, but lose points for taxonomical inaccuracies and being unpleasant birds.

28: Indiana Hoosiers 

This one goes hand-in-hand with the Iowa Hawkeyes situation. A Hoosier is simply a person from Indiana, and it is as if the university looked around the room and was limited to selecting options that were in the room with them at the moment. I will give them points for the Hoosiers movie and that Jimmy kid that was a total baller, but it reeks of a lack of creativity. It’s unique, sure, but only because who else would want to be a Hoosier? There are surely 27 mascots better than a Hoosier in the tournament. 

27: Providence Friars

The Friars of Providence is a solid nickname because it goes hand-in-hand with the school name of Providence. But I would like to see an actual friar on the basketball court. I think I could definitely 1v1 a friar and win. I respect their commitment to their craft and beliefs, but they’re not super intimidating and in all honesty, I am partial to animal mascots. However, they are an original name, and they would totally have the upper hand in a matchup against Duke or Arizona State for religious reasons. But because there are some really cool, even more, unique mascots left to rank, Providence sits at 27th on the list. 

26: Colgate Raiders

The Raider is a very vague mascot. In the context of the Las Vegas Raiders, they seem to be a pirate. In the case of Colgate, I wasn’t able to find a verifiable source on what type of raider the school was. Much like Baylor, that means I get to choose the type of raider I’m dealing with, and I pick the pirate subspecies of the raider. They seem to be the coolest possible option for Colgate to choose from, even though Colgate is in the middle of Central New York and not on the coast. Maybe the Hudson Canal has raiders. I don’t know, I’ve never been to New York. But just as I did with Baylor, I can’t reward Colgate for *maybe* being the pirate type of raider. No other school in the tournament has the raider as a mascot, so they’re good on the originality factor, but having a lack of specificity on the raider takes a hit on the fun factor. 

25: Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State and Miami both have the same weather phenomena as their mascot, with one big difference. The cyclone of Iowa State forms typically in the Indian Ocean, far away from campus in Ames. At least Miami has the correct geographical term for such a storm. But as a mascot, a cyclone is a solid choice, even if it’s not close to the school. They’re destructive and aggressive, and I’m sure at least once in the recent history of the world a cyclone’s winds have picked up a basketball and blown it into a hoop. So they can probably shoot the three-ball in a pinch, too. 

24: Texas Longhorns

I was split on Texas because I do think cows are hip and eco-conscious. They were vegan way before it was cool to be vegan. They just stay in their lane and do their thing, and I appreciate that because the horns that these cows have could be super dangerous if utilized properly. I also appreciate Texas in the way that they specified which cow is the mascot to a degree that a zoologist can be proud of. Rather than being the “bulls” or simply “cows,” the university picked a region-centric bovine. That takes some forward-thinking and good decision-making. 

23- Montana State Bobcats

The Bobcats of Montana State chose the perfect balance between a big cat and a house cat to be their mascot. The average bobcat weighs between 18 and 35 pounds, and that’s really high on the fun factor. It’s like a cat that’s the size of a dog, and it’s feasibly able to be petted. They’re found all over the continental United States, including Montana, so they get points for geographical accuracy as well. They aren’t super social creatures, but they are efficient killers of prey, and Montana State knows that. Good, original choice here.

22: Maryland Terrapins

Maryland really racks up the originality points here, not just because of being a turtle, but by being a specific species of terrapin. The state reptile of Maryland makes sense to be the mascot of the flagship university of the shape. It’s unique and original, but it lacks bite. There’s not much you can do with a terrapin besides eat it, although I have heard it tastes good. So, to recap, originality and geographical accuracy, check. Fun factor, eh not really. That’s what happens when a small turtle is a mascot for a D1 team.

21: Virginia Cavaliers

I think, as a whole, a cavalier is an underrated mascot. It works with Cleveland, and it works with Virginia. They’re the only D1 team with the name, and it fits the university well. 

20: Arkansas Razorbacks

Razorbacks, which, if y’all didn’t know, are another name for wild hogs, are a huge problem ecologically. There are hog seasons in many Southern states for culling the population when it gets too high. They disrupt farms, can transmit diseases, and hurt local populations of other animals. They are pests, in the finest sense. But, they are original, so I’ve got to give points where points are due. NO higher than 20th, however. 

19- Illinois Fighting Illini

I think the Illini are cool, paying homage to the local Native American tribes in the area. It’s a unique mascot and it is geographically in tune. It makes sense since the name “Illinois” comes from a Native language. 

18: Kent State Golden Flashes

What is a Golden Flash? I don’t actually know. I looked it up, and I still don’t know. It sounds unique enough, but until I get clarification on what a Golden Flash is, I can’t properly gauge them on the fun factor. I suppose it’s fun that it’s some unknown mythical creature that may or may not exist, and it’s certainly original, but my hands are tied, and they can’t get any higher than this. 

17: Xavier Musketeers

I rank Xavier this high because I’m a fan of Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. They are the only Musketeers in D1, so they’re original, but a musket is a really inefficient weapon of choice in modern times. Sure, they could go 1v1 against a Knight or a Cavalier and win easily, but the continued selection of using a musket in this day in age makes the decision-making process of the Musketeer a bit in doubt. I like the Musketeer, I really do, and they fit the college of Xavier well. But they just don’t have the fun factor. They are serious, they’ve got a job to do, and are here to do just that. But they’re not going to take time off. They’re not going to take a break in the middle of their double shift. They’re just doing their job. Musketeering. Nothing fun. They’re original, which is why they’re 17th, but the fun factor kills them here. 

16: Howard Bison 

I’ve seen a bison in the wild, and these things are majestic. Potentially dangerous, sure, but that’s what makes them so majestic. The duality of bison is unmatched. Of course, I also have to give credit for the singular version of a bison being the same word as the plural of bison. It’s not a mascot you want to go up 1v1 against in an Oklahoma drill, or really any sport. It’s pure muscle, which makes it a great food, too. There are not any in Washington DC, which makes Howard lose a few points in terms of geographical accuracy, but as a mascot in general it is a solid choice. 

15: Grand Canyon Antelopes

Antelopes are surprisingly unique in D1, as Grand Canyon is the only D1 school to have them as a mascot. So that’s a big point for originality. Also, antelopes mind their own business. They graze on grass, travel in herds, and really just kinda do their own thing. I appreciate that, and I think they’re really down to Earth creatures. As a mascot, it makes sense, because antelopes are fast, springy athletes, and that type of athleticism is valuable on the basketball court. Fun factor? Sure. I think antelopes are fun. Maybe not the most fun animal out there, because I don’t think antelopes have the capacity to be domesticated or be used as transportation, but there’s potential and it’s a cool animal for sure. Originality? Definitely. 

14- Miami (Fla) Hurricanes

We finally get to the geographically correct version of Iowa State. The Miami Hurricanes are a cool name, and a hurricane is a pretty interesting meteorological occurrence. However, I’m not sure the name is a great fit for the city. Let me explain. Yes, hurricanes are fascinating. But if they actually hit the city of Miami, it’ll severely damage the city and its infrastructure. It’s not like hurricanes are some type of magical power that Miami has that it can inflict on its opponents. It’s a weather formation that has the potential to directly attack the city and the university. It’s like naming Pompei’s basketball team the “Mt. Vesuvius’s”. That causes it to lose spots on the rankings, even if the name is unique.

13: Boise State Broncos

I’m actually a big fan of horses. Not the biggest fan, but I respect the versatility and overall strength of the animal. It can be used as transportation, used to help hunt, used to race, and to make glue. Broncos are the wild, untamed version of horses, and they are perfect for a college from Idaho. They could be tamed if need be, but for now they are wild, and that suits the horses just fine. As a mascot, the name is 1 out of 3 D1 one schools using “Broncos”. Not the most original, but certainly not overused. Fun factor is present, as horses are able to be ridden in a race or as a trot. Going for a ride on a trotting horse through the countryside seems like an underrated experience.

12: VCU Rams

VCU has the unbothered ram as their mascot, and rams are vastly underrated in the mascot and animal world. Sure, 4 D1 teams, VCU included, are the Rams. But VCU is actually the only one with a good enough basketball team. It’s as if they’re the only ram team this year. (I didn’t forget you, Fordham, I just neglected to reference you.) A ram is, as an animal, pretty aggressive. They can headbutt one another for dominance and they have some great-looking horns. They’re vegans like cows and are eco-friendly. Overall, they’re a severely underrated species. Points for the fun factor get them to 12th. 

11- Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State is unique with its mascot, being the only D1 “Sun Devil” but I would have preferred a nice desert animal instead. Perhaps a jackrabbit or a Gila monster. There is not a Gila monster mascot in D1, and that needs to change soon. Arizona State, you’re on the clock. I do have to give them points for uniqueness, but I’m partial to desert animals, and a devil is not one. The fun factor isn’t off the charts, either, because I don’t think I’d ever want to hang out with a devil. But the originality means Arizona State slots into 11th here. 

10: Duke Blue Devils

In terms of fire, blue means a hotter flame than yellow. And while the Sun Devils have a yellow flare, the Blue Devils of Duke have blue. That means they’ve somehow been able to reach a temperature so high, even the Sun cannot create. (I know I’m wrong, but I don’t care. Fire is fire, and if you’ve gotten this far in the article, I’ll assume you don’t care about the details of flame chemistry, either.) It’s original, but Central Connecticut State is also a “Blue Devil” school. (They’re D1, just trust me on that.) So it’s not the most original name, but since they are a higher temp than their counterparts from Tempe, I will slot them just above the Sun Devils. The fun factor of a devil isn’t really there, because they’re scary, but I wouldn’t want to play them on a basketball court, either. 

9: San Diego Aztecs

The Aztecs didn’t rule San Diego back in the day, but if a university is going to pick an ancient civilization to be a mascot, the Aztecs are a pretty good choice. They were fighters and great warriors, which also matches up well with SDSU’s style of play, a stout defense. The Aztecs ruled modern-day Mexico for a while, and they are objectively one of the coolest civilizations to come out of North America. San Diego State could’ve gone the lame route and picked “Vikings” or “Pioneers” but they picked “Aztecs” and are the only D1 school to do so. Good thinking, SDSU. Originality and fun factor are there, and they’re one of the top mascots this year that isn’t an animal. 

8: Furman Paladins

What is a Paladin? I’m glad you asked. It’s one of the 12 peers of Charlemagne’s court from way back in the day. It’s like the Walmart version of the Knight of the Round Table, but honestly, in a way, I respect the Paladins more. Lancelot betrayed Arthur by getting with Guinevere, while the Paladins were just Charlemagne’s knights who didn’t bother getting into drama or petty issues. Plus, the lead Paladin’s name was Roland, which is objectively a way cooler name than “Arthur” or “Gawain.” So the fun factor is there for sure, and Furman is also the only “Paladins” in America. Originality is off the charts, and the fun factor is there too. 

7: TCU Horned Frogs

The Horned Frogs may be the most original name on the list, and the only D1 team with the Horned Frogs mascot. The “frogs” themselves shoot blood out of their eyes when threatened. That’s metal. They camouflage well in the Texas sand, and they’re definitely pettable due to their size. I’ve heard of a few people having them as pets. But, there is one problem. The animal is actually a lizard. Mixing up reptiles with amphibians is a huge no-no in the animal world, and it’s worthy of a mini-tumble in the mascot rankings. Yeah, it’s a cool animal, and I’ve seen one in the wild, but it’s tough to justify being a top six mascot when the university doesn’t even know what type of animal they’re dealing with. 

6: West Virginia Mountaineers

This ranking is purely based on the mountain chain from which the Mountaineers are based. If West Virginia was in the Sierra Nevada range or the Rockies, they would be in the 20s on this list. But since they’re from the Appalachian, (pronounced “app-uh-latch-in” for those who still pronounce it “app-uh-lay-shun” for some reason) I must move them up to the top 6. There is one more team with the name Mountaineers in D1, and it’s App State, but they didn’t make the tournament. The mountaineers of the Appalachian are unlike those out west. They don’t have all the fancy climbing gear, and they don’t need oxygen tanks to reach the summits. The mountaineers’ backpacks aren’t filled with Clif bars and extra pairs of hiking cleats. Because the mountaineers from the Appalachia are here for a good time. There are traps to be set, moonshine to be made, and John Denver to be sung. Nestled in the Appalachia are stories you can only find across the range, and rocking chairs that have been rocked perpetually for the past half-century. There’s an array of wildlife, some life-sustaining, some pettable, and maybe a bigfoot. Mountaineers of West Virginia, you have my heart and a top 6 ranking in the mascot list.  

5: UConn Huskies

This is a bit of a sleeper pick because there are 3 other D1 basketball programs named the Huskies. That does cut down on the originality factor a little bit. But none of those teams made the tournament, and the fun factor here is off-the-charts crazy. If there is one thing for universities to realize, I am partial to mascots that are pettable. And UConn has the most pettable mascot in the entire tournament. Huskies are work dogs, they’ve won the Iditarod 49 years in a row. That’s a record that probably won’t ever be beaten. But they’re great as domestic pets, too. Pettable, sure, but they’re truly also the cool cats of the dog world. They’re smart, and they could probably watch March Madness and understand game management and execute a dangerous half-court trap. Fun factor for the win here, and they’re one of the only mascots I could watch the tournament with.

4: Northern Kentucky Norse

Congrats to Northern Kentucky, who pushed aside the “Viking” name and instead went for the far-superior “Norse.” Too many teams are the Vikings, 38 of them to be precise. Guess how many are the Norse? 5. In addition to being cooler than the Viking, it’s also more original. They’re fighters, aggressive on the battlefield, and do not let up. To make matters even sweeter for the Norse of Northern Kentucky, they beat Cleveland State in the Horizon League Championship. Cleveland State’s mascot? The Viking. If there was any additional proof needed to show Norse mascot supremacy, that was it. Fun factor? Very high. The Norse sailed to North America 400 years before Columbus did, just for fun. The originality + fun factor is high on this one, and it makes for a top 5 mascot this year. 

3: UCSB Gauchos

The gaucho is aloof. He moves in mysterious ways. He herds cows, then goes about his way. But I think he’d make a great point guard, too. If he can distribute the basketball like he distributes cattle, he’d be like Chris Paul on the hardwood. Riding through the Pampas region of Argentina, these cowboys are an original choice for a mascot, and though they are not found in Santa Barbara, I would much rather UCSB pick an original mascot that is not found in California than pick “Cowboys” and be just like every other American college team looking for a cool horseback rider mascot. I will bend my own rules here a bit and also give points to the Gauchos for having a really cool logo. That ups the fun factor, and the originality factor is of course high as well. 

2: Texas A&M Corpus-Christi Islanders

What’s great about this mascot is that the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi campus is literally on an island. Other teams do have an islander mascot I think, but how many can say it with the smug satisfaction of being geographically correct? Only one, and it’s in Canada so it doesn’t count. An islander is original, and it’s got the fun factor. It’s a known fact that people who live on islands besides Staten are cool. Cool in an ‘old car, sit on the beach with a beer’ way. They’re living life, and while they might not strike fear into the heart of their opponents, they’re totally down to grab some food with them after the game. The fun factor is off the charts, and originality is unmatched. 

1: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

 I’ve never been to Louisiana, so I’ve never met a cajun, much less one that is ragin’. But I have to believe it puts fear into every one of their opponents. It’s a localized name, specific and original enough to where no one else will have the same mascot, and the fun factor is off the charts. One could say it is in the same vein as “Hawkeye” or “Hoosier” but I retort back that the addition of “Ragin’” boosts this mascot far above both of those two. This is the perfect mascot in this year’s tournament, and it is the ultimate combination of the originality and fun factor. Take a bow, Cajuns.