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Wildcats and Tigers and Ramblers… Oh my!

For college basketball fans, now is the best time of the year. It’s March Madness! The NCAA Tournament is in full swing right now, in process to crown the best team in basketball this season. Some teams have already had their dreams crushed (including my own favorite: NC State) while others are still holding out hope for their “one shining moment.”

I love watching the tournament because I love the game of basketball itself. There’s nothing cooler than watching a long three-pointer swish through the hoop or seeing a defender swat a shot away from the basket. I even enjoy yelling at the TV to cheer the teams on or express my frustration in defeat. (“You’re dead to me Davidson!” I shouted when they failed to knock out my least favorite team Kentucky in their opening game.)

But let’s be honest here, the other reason I really enjoy March Madness is to see all the interesting team names that are spread out all over the country. Which teams have weird nicknames? Which have the strangest mascot? Which ones are more common than others? These are just a few questions I think about each year… especially when we all need a break from shredding and burning our busted brackets.

Here’s a few interesting observations I’ve noticed:

Of the 68 teams which made it to the “Big Dance,” five are called the Wildcats and four are the Tigers. Other repeats include the Cougars, the Bulldogs, the Spartans, the Bisons, and the Aggies.

I’d include “Wolfpack” on the list of name repeats, but unlike the NC State team we’re all familiar with here, the Nevada Wolf Pack located on the other side of the county is spelled with two words. The space is apparently very important! Remember that if you want to jump on the Nevada bandwagon. (You can cheer on the two former NC State players who transferred to Nevada… perhaps because they needed some “space.”)

Lipscomb and Bucknell are the two schools which call themselves the Bisons. I think that’s kind of funny considering the University at Buffalo is also in the tournament. Their team name, however, is the Bulls. Seems like Buffalo missed a good opportunity for a silly joke, right?

Animals are a common theme for a lot of teams, ranging anywhere from the Georgia State Panthers and Montana Grizzles to the TCU Horned Frogs and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. I do wonder how people pick these names sometimes. A horned frog doesn’t really seem to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, right?

Not all team names can be categorized as animals, however. Competing this year are teams like the Mountaineers of West Virginia, the Purdue Boilermakers, and the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin. All of these names for me just conjure up the image of a group of muscular but also probably sweaty guys. But I suppose that’s fitting considering that basketball teams are also generally composed of a group of muscular, but also probably sweaty guys.

Then you have something like the Penn Quakers and the Providence Friars. Again, not the most intimidating names. But on the other hand, the Providence Friar mascot looks like it stepped out of a horror movie… (Google a picture at your own peril)

Some team names are interesting just because they stand out from the rest. I enjoy names like the Loyola Chicago Ramblers, Marshall’s Thundering Herd, and the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure. But my personal favorite might be the Radford Highlanders. Every time we watched them play and win an improbable game, my brother would declare “the only way to kill a Highlander is to cut off its head.” (Or, as it turns out, just play against Villanova).

Of course, there are plenty of great team names that didn’t make the tournament this year: the Stanford Trees, the St. Louis University Billikens, and the Furman Paladins, just to name a few. All weird and strange mascot names I hope to be cheering on and/or yelling at my TV for in the future.

What’s your favorite?

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.