In an infamous episode of Cheers, Diane Chambers placed her bets for the football pool based on which animal/creature would win a fight in real life. (For example, clearly a (Chicago) Bear would beat a (St. Louis) Ram.) The result? She mopped the floor with everyone. I shall attempt the same feat for this March Madness season and see how it goes. The rules are simple. Five on five, who would win in a fight? No consideration to ranking, team performance through the year, star players or any other reasonable measure of play. Strictly speaking I am theoretically matching five of x species with five of y species and surmising the result.
I truly hope to stay at least competitive with my brother's "real" bracket or I will never hear the end of this. Now on to the picks...
South - First Round
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Radford Highlanders - At first I was excited about the idea of swords and beheading and "There can only be one..." then I found out that the Highlanders are not exactly what I thought they were. Nothing against the rich Scot-Irish heritage of Radford, but your school seal has a bee hive(!). Unless the Tar Heels had allergies that I'm not aware of then the scale tips to those tough civil war veterans.
LSU Tigers vs. Butler Bulldogs - Poor pups. Poor, poor pups.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. West Kentucky Hilltoppers - This is not a fight I think I'm going to be able to sell a lot of tickets to. (Nothing against the actual teams of course.) Since I found very little to explain what a Hilltopper is and their mascot quite frankly looks like a red version of Grimace then I'm siding with Chief Illiniwek and his crew.
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Akron Zips - God bless March Madness for bringing these funky characters into our lives. Zips are actually a particular type of rubber overshoe that used to be stylish. But no worries, folks, Akron beefed up their fear factor by adding a mascot, Zippy, that is a ferocious...kangaroo. Huge ups to Zippy being one of the only female mascots in collegiate play, but Bulldogs have this one.
Arizona St. Sun Devils vs. Temple Owls - Well the Sun Devil is actually a fictitious beast crafted in part by a writer and part by a Disney illustrator. So how would Owls do when facing cartoon Sun Devils? Look for the Sun Devils to end up at the bottom of the Owls cage in the morning.
Syracuse Orange vs. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks - Being a person of Cherokee descent, I can appreciate the movement to respect the Native American people but could you actually come up with something besides a color to replace the Saltine Warrior? Unless Syracuse plans on blinding the Lumberjacks with their brightness then Lumberjacks will win.
Clemson Tigers vs. Michigan Wolverines - What a fight! Wolverines facing Tigers would be a vicious battle to the death. (Yes, I realize I sounded a bit blood-thirsty there.) While I'm sure that the Wolverines would put up a good fight, they would be facing animals almost ten times their weight (nerd alert) so Tigers win.
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Morgan St. Golden Bears - Well the fight is Bears versus "settlers of unknown lands." Technically speaking this fight has been had and clearly won as you don't see pioneers isolated in zoos and state parks. ** Please note that this is speaking strictly from a survival perspective and in no way reflects my conservationist beliefs.
Midwest - First Round
Louisville Cardinals vs. Morehead Eagles - For the record I am not daft and I have bothered to turn on ESPN this week so I realize that I'm not exactly making my case stronger with this pick. But I'm committed to the cause and the cause clearly dictates that predatory Eagles would take out cute Cardinals.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Siena Saints - According to my research a Buckeye is a poisonous nut. Clearly the only logical scenario here is that the Saints would be tricked into ingesting these nuts and the victory goes to the Buckeyes.
Utah Utes vs. Arizona Wildcats - My thinking is that a Ute (an American Indian that was clever enough to integrate horses into their lifestyle when they met the Spanish) would be able to best a Wildcat in a fight so the edge goes to Utah.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Cleveland St. Vikings - Wikipedia does not even give a straight answer on what a Demon Deacon is but sources agree that it probably dates back to Wake Forest's devilish play. I may take a hit for this in the bracket, but I argue that a set of Vikings would defeat a group of clerics that have gone morally astray.
West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Dayton Flyers - Okay there is a bit of nuance that bears observing here. Notice that it's the Dayton Flyers and not the Dayton Bombers, Dayton Gunners, etc. I can find no mention of a weapon of any kind for the Flyers, but several mentions of goggles and a scarf. Based on my research they plan on just circling the mountains indefinitely or going kamikaze. In either case the Mountaineers will win by attrition if nothing else.
Kansas Jayhawks vs. North Dakota St. Bison - How in the heck would a bison kill anything? I'm not sure that this team would have been allowed in the tournament at all if Diane had anything to say about it. It's a weak match-up from the Darwinian perspective but I'm going to have to go with the idea that Jayhawks could at least peck you to death.
Boston College Eagles vs. USC Trojans - I find this entire tournament to be a bit bird-heavy, but that's a side issue. In general I would hope that a group of Trojans would be able to take out a few Eagles. Again with a codicil that this is not a reflection of my tree-hugger status.
Michigan St. Spartans vs. Robert Morris Colonials - Okay, feeling a bit unpatriotic with this pick and the anti-eagle stance, but I just feel that Spartans were a tough breed and that, five on five, they would have decimated a group of Colonials.
West - First Round
Connecticut Huskies vs. Chattanooga Mocs - I wondered what a Moc was and quickly discovered after my research that the Huskies won't know what bit them. Apparently these tiny bundles of fluff will be facing water moccasin snakes, one of the most poisonous in North America.
BYU Cougars vs. Texas A&M Aggies - Animals versus people. It's a vicious match-up as old as time and difficult for me to predict. I'm going to make a few assumptions here and one of them has got to be that these Agricultural gentlemen do not have a vast amount of farm equipment on their person when they face the Cougars. Advantage large claws and sharp teeth.
Purdue Boilermakers vs. Northern Iowa Panthers - See above for my answer to the animals versus people match-up, despite the toughness and grit I am quite sure a Boilermaker must have possessed. However, for my slightly cop-out pick I offer you this nugget - Purdue used to be the Pumpkin-Shuckers. That would have made my pick easier but probably not done too much for their street cred.
Washington Huskies vs. Mississippi St. Bulldogs - I hate to see dog on dog violence. There is a saying (apparently) that "an aggressive dog is not a team dog". Meaning that Huskies are naturally non-aggressive because of their breeding to pull sleds as a pack. I'm not quite sure I buy that, but I'll take the Bulldogs since I don't know much about Huskies besides, "Cute. Fuzzy."
Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Utah St. Aggies - I realize that the Agriculturalists are most likely a peaceful people. However I would assume that they would take down some Eagles once they became rattled or threatened. Another upset pick here.
Missouri Tigers vs. Cornell Big Red - I predict a close game between Tigers and Big Red Bears. However, the possession arrow lands squarely at the feet of the Tigers here since technically the Big Red nickname came originally from a song that only referenced color and no bear. In other words, the Bear is a nice addition to the team and will help in a fight, but technically this fight should be Tigers versus a primary color if we're going to be historically accurate. (Or at least Wiki-accurate, which is kinda the same.)
California Golden Bears vs. Maryland Terrapins - Shell not withstanding, the Bears have a clear advantage. I smell turtle soup.
Memphis Tigers vs. CSU Northridge Matadors - The visual of this actually made me laugh out loud. The idea of five guys with red capes standing around waving Tigers away... I'm pretty confident that it's not a scenario that works out well for the Matadors.
East - First Round
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. E. Tennessee St. Buccaneers - I have to ask myself how a scenario of Panthers facing Buccaneers would realistically occur (because, you know, this whole bracket has realism painted all over it...) and I'm envisioning Panthers making it on the boat. If that happens, even with a few weapons at hand, I can't imagine any Buccaneers walking away unharmed.
Oklahoma St. Cowboys vs. Tennessee Volunteers - My bias as a Texan is probably a factor here and I'll admit that I am still smarting after learning that most the Alamo folklore I grew up with involving Tennessee Volunteers was bogus. That being said, I still side with professional Cowboys over, well, voluntary Volunteers.
Florida State Seminoles vs. Wisconsin Badgers - Whew! I dodge a bullet here and get to comfortably place my Alma Mater Seminoles defeating "stinkin'" Badgers. Now I won't come home to changed locks...
Xavier Musketeers vs. Portland St. Vikings - Musketeers versus Vikings. Teeny tiny swords versus big giant clubs and axes. I'm going to use skill and footwork versus I'm going to clobber the crap out of you by any means necessary. The Vikings carry this fight but go into the next round a bit cut up.
UCLA Bruins vs. VCU Rams - My favorite Yahoo answer to, "What is a Bruin?" = "A wimpy name for a bear." Maybe so, but they can take out horned sheep regardless of the name.
Villanova Wildcats vs. American Eagles - Troy and Gabriel will be pleased because I pick a pack of Wildcats to take out a handful of Eagles without batting an eye.
Texas Longhorns vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers - This fight will not be pretty. In fact, I predict an actual stomping by the Longhorns over the Gophers. Just don't ask them to come down stairs afterward. (Get it? Because cows can't walk down stairs...never mind.)
Duke Blue Devils vs. Binghamton Bearcats - True I gave "devilish" deacons little respect in this bracket, but actual Devils? Props to the minions of Satan should probably be paid. They would surely make sport out of little Bearcats. Side bar -- ultimate props to the people that made the gutsy decision to call a team the Blue Devils in the 1920's when the freakin' Tampa Bay Devil Rays were bullied into dropping the "Devil" out of their name just recently.
And there you have it. Assuming that I am not completely out of this thing by the next round I'll update you on my (practically) flawless logic for my later round picks.
Shawna Vercher is a Web Publicist and President of The Society of Successful Women. Find her on LinkedIn or look for her pathetically infrequent Tweets.