Andrew Zhu

Mascotball Madness


Go Camels!


March Madness may be the best three weeks in sports, let alone in collegiate athletics. Anything can happen on the hardwood floor, and over the years we have seen powerhouses steamrolling through their competition, Cinderellas dancing deep into night, and anything and everything in between. There is a longstanding tradition to create one’s own bracket predictions after the selection of the field and comparing one’s results among a pool of friends or even against strangers online. 

For this post, I decided to switch it up – I would make a field of 68 teams, not on the basis of their results on the basketball court, but by the quality (subject to the opinion of yours truly) of their mascot name.

Mascotball Madness

Selection of the Field

To determine the field of 68 teams, I went on the ESPN website to the Men’s Basketball Standings tables and exported each team name into a Google Sheets spreadsheet. The result was a list of 363 basketball teams including 217 unique mascot names. Before assessing for the quality of each mascot name, I removed team names to decrease preconceptions of mascots based off of the team itself. Obviously, this only works to some degree.

Then, I went through all mascot names, marking the ones with phonaesthetics characteristics to my liking. This produced a total of 59 mascot names (a total of 64 teams). To round out the field of 68, I needed to choose four more teams. In the actual selection process, the field is divided up by automatic qualifiers and at-large qualifiers. Automatic qualifiers are those that win an automatic bid for winning their respective conference’s postseason tournament. As it stood, 28 of 32 conferences had at least one team represented, while four conferences (Mid-Eastern Athletic, Northeast, Pac-12, and Southland) needed a representative mascot. Begrudgingly, I choose one mascot for each conference.

Here is a table of the conferences with multiple mascots represented:

The Big West Conference leads the way with a total of seven teams making the field, followed by the American East and Atlantic Coast with four teams selected each.

I will admit a few preexisting mascot biases – I chose the mascot of my college alma mater as well as high school alma mater (three teams with this name). The former would have likely made the list, regardless, but likely not the latter!

Seeding of the Field

The NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket is divided into four regions (South, Midwest, West, and East) of 16 teams each. If you are wondering how 68 divided by four can equal 16, the answer is that there are four “play-in” games. In 2011, when the tournament expanded from 64 to 68 teams, a total of eight teams were then selected to participate in “First Four” play-in games. These eight teams are always the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers and the four lowest-seeded at-large teams. The four automatic qualifier teams are generally seeded to play-in to a pair of 16 seed spots, while the four at-large teams are seed to play-in to 11 seed spots.

My process for selection of tournament seeding is non-scientific, as with the rest of this post. I went through the field of 68 teams, assigning each team a mascot score from 5 – 1, with 5 being the best of the names and 1 being the worst of the names. Then, starting from the 5 scores, I began ranking them into their overall seeds. 

While the teams are sorted into the four regions on a general S-curve, bracketing rules can lead to some deviation.

For example, the actual March Madness bracket has the lowest-seeded at-large teams as 11 seeds, but in the Mascot bracket I created, the lowest at-large team are also 16 seeds. Accordingly, the regions/overall seeds of the two brackets do not correspond past that of the 11 seeds.

Comparison to Actual Bracket

Only 10 of the 68 teams in the Mascotball Championship Bracket made it into the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament:

– RAGIN’ CAJUNS, Louisiana. Mascotball 1 seed, Basketball 13 seed

– AZTECS, San Diego State. Mascotball 2 seed, Basketball 5 seed

– HORNED FROGS, Texas Christian University. Mascotball 3 Seed, Basketball 6 seed

– BOILERMAKERS, Purdue. Mascotball 4 seed, Basketball 1 seed

– NITTANY LIONS, Penn State. Mascotball 5 seed, Basketball 10 seed

– CATAMOUNTS, Vermont. Mascotball 7 seed, Basketball 15 seed

– GAUCHOS, UC Santa Barbara. Mascotball 8 seed, Basketball 14 seed

– FIGHTING ILLINI, Illinois. Mascotball 9 seed, Basketball 9 seed

– PALADINS, Furman. Mascotball 14 seed, Basketball 13 seed

Of these ten teams, only the Boilermakers and Paladins have a Basketball seed better than their respective Mascotball seed.

Tournament Bracket

Below is the tournament bracket for the 2023 Men’s Mascotball Tournament. There are still 67 games to be played to determine the champion, so without further ado… let’s play (mascot)ball!

Tournament Summary

It has been a tournament of upsets, as for the first time since 1979, none of the top-seeded teams (Billikens, Chanticleers, Fighting Camels, Ragin’ Cajuns) made it to the Elite Elite, with the Ragin’ Cajuns losing to the Mean Green in the first round.

The Final Four consists of a 4th-seed (Crusaders) out of the West Region versus a 5th-seed (Quakers) out of the Midwest Region, alongside a 9th-seed (Sycamores) out of the East Region and a 5th-seed (Demon Deacons) out of the South Region.

In the last three games, the Crusaders blew out the Quakers, my alma mater, and the Demon Deacons made an impressive, 14-point second-half comeback capped by a buzzer beater. In an all-Christian Final of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Crusaders finished a dominant tournament run with a 76 – 59 victory over the Demon Deacons.

Let’s see how the Mascotball teams did in the actual March Madness tournament. Of the ten Mascotball teams, the 5th basketball-seeded Aztecs defied the odds to make it all the way to the Championship Game before falling to champions, the 4th basketball-seeded UConn Huskies. One of the pre-tournament favorites, the 1st basketball-seeded Boilermakers, fell in a monumental upset to a 16-seed. 



What an amazing, wacky, bizarre, topsy-turvey tournment! Congratulations to the University of Connecticut Huskies!