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Who would win March Madness based on team nickname?

The Blue Devil is a strong contender in the field of the 64 coolest nicknames.
The Blue Devil is a strong contender in the field of the 64 coolest nicknames.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When it comes to team nicknames, professional sports have nothing on college athletics. The Boilermakers. The Jackrabbits. The Banana Slugs. Drawing on regional traditions and odd local animals, colleges in every state across our great land have at least one school with a colorful nickname.

Which got me thinking: What if you filled out a bracket based entirely on nicknames? Who would win then? Although none of the aforementioned teams squeaked into the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, smaller schools are almost always the ones with the cooler team name. However, with the Wichita State Shockers securing a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, the field is wide-open from top to bottom.

Here was my criteria:

1. This list is based on nicknames, not mascots. The mascot might be the same as the nickname, but not always.
2. Mascots do, however, factor into the pick, along with logo design and originality.
3. An imaginary battle between the two nicknames settles ties.
4. I tried to leave out biases against the University and/ or the animal in the nickname.
5. That didn’t always work.

All matchups are based on the official 2014 March Madness bracket; teams were not reseeded. For clarity, we’ll go through each region one at a time until we get our Final Four. I refuse to acknowledge play-in games, therefore the round of 64 will be referred to as “Round 1,” as it should be elsewhere. Finally, even though this list is definitive and objectively correct, feel free to use the comments if you have any dissent.

South Region Rd. 1
South Region Rd. 1 University at Albany

South Region Rd. 1

1. Gators
16. Great Danes

The Gators would have a good chance of advancing against a lot of other nicknames, but a beloved dog breed is not one of them. Albany’s logo is more Scrappy-Doo than Marmaduke, with menacing rings under his eyes. This dog’s got fight in him.

16. Great Danes advance

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8. Buffaloes
9. Panthers

In the wild, no. But as a nickname, Buffaloes beat Panthers.

8. Buffaloes advance

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5. Rams
12. Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks are a really underrated team name. They’re a proud symbol of American industrialism (and industriousness) and you can go bonkers with their design. The Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks (I love that Stephen F. Austin, whoever he is, got “State” added to his University’s title) went the opposite route. Their mascot is a ripped frat dude with a sentient axe. This team could go far in the tournament.

12. Lumberjacks advance

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4. Bruins
13. Golden Hurricane

This bracket just keeps giving. The Golden Hurricane?! I always assumed that to be an especially disgusting sex act, but according to a Google image search, it’s apparently superhero with a golden toilet bowl for a head. Major showdowns ahead.

13. Golden Hurricane advance

South Region Rd. 1 (con't)
South Region Rd. 1 (con't) Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

South Region Rd. 1 (con't)

6. Buckeyes
11. Flyers

Flyers win this one lopsidedly. Not only does their logo look more like it’s for frozen potatoes than a school, but their mascot, Rudy Flyer, is a cheeky 1920’s stunt pilot. The Buckeye’s have the rare vegetable product as a mascot, but seriously, look at that guy.

11. Flyers advance

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3. Orange
14. Broncos

I’m a Denver Broncos fan so obviously, I love both these things. But when conflicted, go with the color/ fruit.

3. Orange advance

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10. Cardinal
7. Lobos

Remember that comic book “Lobo?” Lobo was a popular anti-hero in the D.C. Universe in the 90’s. Anyway, it would be cool if the Lobos replaced their wolf mascot with him...oh wait. A search reveals their mascot is some kind of drunk party wolf. Nevermind, carry on New Mexico State.

7. Lobos advance

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2. Jayhawks
15. Colonels

Specific twists on animal names (it’s not a jay, it’s not a hawk, it’s a jayhawk) make for good nicknames. Unfortunately our mutant bird is facing a really p***ed off Colonel Sanders. And we all know what Colonel’s from Kentucky do with mutant birds.

15. Colonels Advance

South Region Rd. 2
South Region Rd. 2 Eastern Kentucky University

South Region Rd. 2

16. Great Danes
6. Buffs

This is tough, due to my own personal bias. I’m a CU alumnus and if you’ve ever been to one of their football games (given their recent seasons, I don’t blame you if you haven’t) you’ve seen Ralphie, a real Buffalo, run around the stadium. It’s one of the coolest sights. Besides, I’ve gotta go with America’s greatest animal over a Danish one.

6. Buffaloes advance

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12. Lumberjacks
13. Golden Hurricane

The battle of the tournament so far. You’ve got the mulleted lumberjack guy against R. Kelly’s favorite move in the bedroom. As much as I appreciate the Mascot-comedy of our friends at Stephen F. Austin (a comedian/ lumberjack?) State, the Golden Hurricane is a too powerful of a nickname.

13. Golden Hurricane advance

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6. Flyers
3. Orange

I will grant you that there’s not much going on with the Syracuse mascot. He’s just an orange ball (because he lives in upstate New York, it’s unclear whether or not he’s a citrus fruit). And I want to go for a ride with the flyer guy so badly. But if you really want to stick out in the world of nicknames, go singular. There are but two schools in the 64-team field whose teams are an irregular plural noun. Irregular plural nouns, FTW.

3. Orange advance

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7. Lobos
15. Colonels

We’re all still in awe of the Eastern Kentucky logo right? It’s the Colonel as I’ve never seen him before. That poor drunken wolf is about to...well, I’m sure this merciless, unforgiving Colonel will think of something to do with him.

15. Colonels advance

South Region Semis and Finals
South Region Semis and Finals Brett Deering/Getty Images

South Region Semis and Finals

13. Golden Hurricane
6. Buffs

I’ve been mislead. Tulsa’s toilet bowl head superhero mascot has retired. In his place is the new Captain ‘Cane, a superhero with an origin story and everything. He’s not as cool as our old Captain ‘Cane, but he’s a got a lightning bolt sword, so he’s moving on.

15. Colonels
3. Orange

I’ve also been researching our friend the Colonel a bit more. It turns out that although his logo looks as grimly determined as Liam Neeson on an international flight, his mascot incarnation is quite a bit softer. His eye’s are the type that Bronies could positively drown in. Our colorful friend from Syracuse has gone far enough.

13. Golden Hurricane
15. Colonels

This leads us to our South Region Finals. Look, I’ve been a big fan of the Golden Hurricane for some time now, but Tulsa, you need to step your logo game up. The urgency and action of the Colonel, the kind, understanding eyes of the mascot, the possible connection to the iconic fast-food franchise -- there’s just too much going on here, even for a Golden Hurricane.

Colonels win South Region.

East Region Rd. 1
East Region Rd. 1 Coastal Carolina

East Region Rd. 1

1. Cavaliers
16. Chanticleers

Off to another good start in the East bracket. I appreciate the swashbuckling mascot as much as the next guy, but we’re talking about the Chanticleers here. You know what a Chanticleer is? Apparently, it is a fighting bird. Violent birds win every single time.

16. Chanticleers advance

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9. Colonials
8. Tigers

Colonials are people who were around in Colonial times and one of the most famous men of that era was George Washington, hence the clever nickname of GW. Plus, a founding father takes the Tiger, as the old saying goes.

9. Colonials advance

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5. Bearcats
12. Crimson

Right now, the Crimson is just a huge missed opportunity. There's nothing that defines them. With the cool nickname and longtime ties to the Illuminati, Harvard is in a great position to re-imagine their logo as a Game of Thrones sigil. The Bearcats are a tough draw, no doubt, but Harvard can increase their odds next year with something more Westeros-y.

5. Bearcats advance

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4. Spartans
13. Fightin’ Blue Hens

Another fighting bird?! Sorry, Sparta, you’ll need more than 300 soldiers to win this round.

13. Fightin’ Blue Hens advance

East Region Rd. 1 (con't)
East Region Rd. 1 (con't) Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

East Region Rd. 1 (con't)

6. Tar Heels
11. Friars

This is a tough one because you’ve got one of the classic college basketball logos (UNC was into Grumpy Goat way before that cat came along last year and stole his thunder) against a new-school design at the wizarding college known as Providence. When in doubt, defer to the mascots, and the terrifying smile-scream of the Friar is truly a thing of nightmares.

11. Friars advance

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3. Cyclones
14. Eagles

Image a showdown between these two things. Not a difficult pick, for obvious reasons.

3. Cyclones advance

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2. Wildcats
15. Panthers

Why are so many college teams nicknamed “The Wildcats?” There’s not a single pro team in the four major sports with the moniker, yet from grade-school through college, just about every third team uses the Wildcat as their mascot. For nostalgic reasons (I was a Wildcat in high-school) we’re advancing them over the Panthers.

2. Wildcats advance

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7. Huskies
10. Hawks

Huskies are another nickname common to the college ranks, but absent from the pros. The Hawks mascot has an endearing homemade quality to him, but he’s not getting past man’s best friend.

7. Huskies advance

East Region Rd. 2
East Region Rd. 2 Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

East Region Rd. 2

16. Chanticleers
9. Colonials

The Colonials may have beaten back the British, but they’ve never faced a teal and golden chicken. Thank God our former British overlords didn’t have those.

16. Chanticleers advance

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5. Bearcats
13. Fightin’ Blue Hens

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the Bearcat as an animal. Is it a bear or is it a cat? Images of it are either adorable, vaguely menacing, or positively terrifying. Like the Colonials, they don’t stand a chance against angry birds. A semifinal cockfight is all set.

13. Fightin’ Blue Hens advance

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11. Friars
3. Cyclones

The Cyclones benefited from some easy matchups to make it this far, but Providence has God/ Wizardry on its side, and we all know they are the ones really in control of the weather.

11. Friars advance

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2. Wildcats
7. Huskies

Again, relatively favorable scheduling have gotten these two nicknames to the regional quarters (ok, that’s just one win, but still). The Huskies move on, but their future isn’t looking bright.

7. Huskies advance

East Region Semis and Finals
East Region Semis and Finals University of Delaware

East Region Semis and Finals

16. Chanticleers
13. Fightin’ Blue Hens

11. Friars
7. Huskies

It’s a real shame that these nicknames were scheduled in the same bracket. In a different scenario, they both could have been Final Four teams. Let’s go ahead and call it -- whoever wins this matchup is advancing to the Final Four (even wizards ain’t got nothing on fighting poultry).

According to the school’s site, the Fightin’ Blue Hen nickname stems from a renown cockfighting breed favored by Revolutionary War soldiers. I love that they’re embracing their cockfighting history, but I really love the design of their mascot, YoUDee. She (hens are female) is the type of bird that would kick your butt in a streetfight, but turn around and buy you a drink afterward.

In the other corner, we have the Chanticleer. That University’s site also comes with a helpful pronunciation guide (SHON-toh-clear) as well as an origin story of the “proud and fierce rooster” that traces the its history back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. “His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure,” Chaucer wrote of the foul.

So this is obviously an even match. In the end, the Fightin’ Blue Hen comes out on top, if for no other reason that she has Fightin’ in her name.

Fightin’ Blue Hens win the East Region

West Region Rd. 1
West Region Rd. 1 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

West Region Rd. 1

1. Wildcats (Arizona)
16. Wildcats (Weber State)

Great, two more teams nicknamed the Wildcats. In cases like this, we’ve got to defer to mascot design. I’m feeling the hat that the ‘Zona Wildcat is rocking, but there’s a little too much ‘tude about him for my tastes. A getty image search of the Weber State mascot turns up a single photo and this cat certainly seems down to party. Party animals win, at least in college.

16. Wildcats advance

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8. Bulldogs
9.Cowboys

The logo design of the Cowboy (Pistol Pete, as he’s known around Stillwater) is cartoonish, but the mascot is among the more frightening in college sports, and not just because he’s always packing a gun. His hard plastic face is permanently frozen in an ominous stare; this is one cowboy that would kill you just as soon as look at you. You may remember Gonzaga’s bulldog from his appearance in several Tom and Jerry cartoons. Pistol Pete may someday murder me in my sleep for this, but you have to go with the bulldog here.

8. Bulldogs advance

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5. Sooners
12. Bison

It’s taken a long time, but the Bison are finally getting their revenge on the settlers.

12. Bison advance

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4. Aztecs
13. Aggies

At this point, I think we all feel a little uncomfortable with ethnic nicknames. To make matters worse, just look at who the Aztecs are going up against. This might as well be called “the historical baggage” game.

13. Aggies advance

West Region Rd. 1 (con't)
West Region Rd. 1 (con't) University of Louisiana at Lafayette

West Region Rd. 1 (con't)

6. Bears
11. Cornhuskers

Did you know the Cornhuskers were once nicknamed the Bugeaters? This tournament would be over already if they stuck with that.

11. Cornhuskers advance

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3. Bluejays
14. Ragin Cajuns

Ragin’ Cajuns? Are they any other kind? Seriously, there are so many things to love about this nickname. And don’t get me started on the logo, which looks more like a brand of pepper sauce than an academic seal.

14. Ragin Cajuns advance

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7. Ducks
10. Cougars

The Oregon Duck has his own Twitter account. And he’s really good at it, as evidenced by this St. Patrick’s Day tweet.

7. Ducks advance

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2. Badgers
15. Eagles

Badgers?! We’re gon' need some stinking badgers!

West Region Rd. 2
West Region Rd. 2 North Dakota State University

West Region Rd. 2

16. Wildcats
8. Bulldogs

Turns out the ‘Zags bulldog is named Spike, the same name as the bulldog in the T&J cartoons. He’s available for appearances at reasonable rates too.

8. Bulldogs advance

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12. Bison
13. Aggies

Is it just me or does the Bison in the NDSU logo look a little wise? Sure, his eyes clearly tell you that he’s not your friend, but his lips are parsed, like he’s hearing you out before he gores you. Sadly, NMSU’s mascot is a PO’d frontiersman with guns already drawn. This does not end well.

13. Aggies advance

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11. Cornhuskers
14. Ragin’ Cajuns

The Ragin’ Cajuns put fields of corn to the torch.

14. Ragin’ Cajuns advance

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7. Ducks
2. Badgers

The Oregon Duck is basically Donald, which makes the University one of the few places that’s ever received a formal blessing from Disney to use one of its trademarked characters. Also, ducks and badgers are natural enemies in the wild and ducks almost always come out on top.

7. Ducks advance

West Region Semis and Finals
West Region Semis and Finals Jamie Squire/Getty Images

West Region Semis and Finals

8. Bulldogs
13. Aggies

Turns out, that sociopath on the Aggies logo is none other than Pistol Pete, the same fellow who performs mascotery for Oklahoma State and Wyoming. Pistol Pete is both a Cowboy (twice over) and an Aggie. For entrepreneurial reasons alone, he’s moving on.

14. Ragin’ Cajuns
7. Ducks

The rage of these cajuns...it can’t be stopped. Poor Donald.

13. Aggies
14. Ragin’ Cajuns

I confess I’ve buried the lede here. You see, the mascot for the Ragin’ Cajuns is not in fact a Cajun with anger problems but a hot pepper. Just let that sink in for a minute. Now look into his eyes. I’m pretty sure this guy was somehow involved in the case they worked on True Detective.

Ragin’ Cajuns win West Region

Midwest Region Rd. 1
Midwest Region Rd. 1 Manhattan University

Midwest Region Rd. 1

1. Shockers
16. Mustangs

One word: Shockers.

1. Shockers advance

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8. Wildcats (Kentucky)
9. Wildcats (Kansas State)

Seriously, another Wildcats matchup? If you’re keeping track, that’s five teams out of 64 in the tournament nicknamed Wildcats, and this is our second Wildcat-on-Wildcat showdown. K-State’s take on the mascot wins this one, it’s undoubtedly Lee Corso's favorite.

9. Wildcats advance

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12. Wolfpack
5. Billikens

Wolfpack is a strong nickname and would advance for Hangover/ Game of Thrones/ Irregular plural-related reasons were it not for the Billikens. Much more on them to come.

5. Billikens advance

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4. Cardinals
13. Jaspers

What a first round in the midwest. The Jaspers?! Turns out they’re named after a school Prefect and baseball coach, Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C. The Wall Street Journal has a recent story here.

13. Jaspers advance

Midwest Region Rd. 1 (con't)
Midwest Region Rd. 1 (con't) Arizona State University

Midwest Region Rd. 1 (con't)

6. Minutemen
11. Volunteers

Funny how they’re both the same thing, just in different wars. And no, it was the War of 1812, not the Civil War, you judgmental northerner. They’re advancing just because of that.

11. Volunteers advance

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3. Blue Devils
14. Bears

Apparently the Wall Street Journal did an audit last year of college nicknames from the animal kingdom and their results found that “bears have the best NCAA tournament winning percentage of animal mascots, followed by cats, dogs and birds. Horses pull up the rear.” Of course, there’s only one Blue Devil and I’m pretty sure their winning-percentage trumps that of any Bear.

3. Blue Devils advance

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7. Longhorns
10. Sun Devils

ASU is a notorious party school and it’s not hard to figure out why. Just look at their logo. That guy is the Demon God of mischief and revelry.

10. Sun Devils advance

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2. Wolverines
15. Terriers

On the one hand, you’ve got one of the coolest animals in North America, by virtue of his comic book namesake. On the other hand, aww look at that little guy, he’s so cute and smart!

15. Terriers advance

Midwest Region Rd. 2
Midwest Region Rd. 2 Wikimedia commons

Midwest Region Rd. 2

1. Shockers
9. Wildcats

The most lopsided win in the tournament.

1. Shockers advance

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5. Billikens
13. Jaspers

Just what, exactly, is a Billiken? Basically, it was the Beanie Baby of the early 1900’s, a good-luck-charm-doll toy-fad that disappeared as quickly as it caught on. It sort of looks like Buddha, only with pointier ears. It’s image came to it’s creator, art teacher and illustrator Florence Pretz, in a dream. It’s moving on.

5. Billikens advances

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11. Volunteers
3. Blue Devils

Les Diables Bleus.

3. Blue Devils advance

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10. Sun Devils
15. Terriers

If you look at the full-size version of the ASU logo, you’ll see their Sun Devil is actually chasing a terrier.

10. Sun Devils advance

Midwest Region Semis and Finals
Midwest Region Semis and Finals Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Midwest Region Semis and Finals

1. Shockers
5. Billikens

10. Sun Devils
3. Blue Devils

Tremendous regional semi-final here. From the looks of him, the Shockers mascot -- known to his homies as WuShock -- is like a cross between a wheat harvest and Steve Jobs. Great work. Unfortunately, in addition to its history as a novelty item, the Billiken logo is highly-Seussian in its design (and it appears the logo predates the good doctor). Billikens in an upset.

Meanwhile, the devils of the sun and, um, the blue face off in the other semi-final. A fight between two horrors of the underworld would quite possibly rage for centuries and destroy our world as we know it, so let’s just give it to the guy with the pitchfork and be on with it.

This sets up a final between, essentially, Buddha and the Devil. Guess which way that one goes.

Billikens win the Midwest Region

Final Four
Final Four University of Delaware

Final Four

13. Fightin' Blue Hens
15. Colonels

5. Billikens
14. Ragin' Cajuns

Our Final four is set. The first matchup sees the Colonels take on the Fightin’ Blue Hens. On paper, you have a man made famous for his chicken-killing capacity going against a hen. But this is no ordinary fowl we’re talking about here: This is a Fightin’ Blue Hen. In the name of all of her fallen brothers and sisters, YouDee defeats The Colonel by throwing a vat of frying oil on the his face. Poetic justice prevails.

The other national semi-final sees the Ragin’ Cajuns taking on the Billikens, an anthropomorphic cayenne pepper vs. a baby-Buddha-bat. This is an incredibly tough matchup, but the Billiken is a singular entity with supernatural powers; even a sentient spice can’t overcome.

National Championship
National Championship Rob Carr/Getty Images

National Championship

At last our final has arrived, the Fightin’ Blue Hens vs. the Billikens. The Fightin’ Blue Hen has a history of such winner-take-all confrontations, as they were often carried into battle with Revolutionary War soldiers for cockfighting, an entertaining diversion for troops exhausted by combat and violence. The Billiken senses this. He doesn’t want to fight the Fightin’ Blue Hen anymore than YouDee’s ancestors did. There’s already been too much savagery in this bird’s sad history. And having avenged chickens everywhere by defeating the Colonel in the semi-finals, YouDee has already achieved what she set out for. With a forgiving embrace, the Billiken brings the sad fightin’ bird into his arms and ends her life with a mercy killing.

In a dramatic Final that ends with more tears than cheers, the Billikens emerge victorious.