Who would win the NCAA tournament if the mascots played basketball?
Today is the day we ask ourselves the important questions.
How fast can a jaguar run? How high can a ram jump? What was the military training regimen of the Spartans? Could a jackrabbit beat a terrapin in basketball? What exactly is a seawolf?
Welcome to SI's 2016 NCAA tournament mascot bracket, where you can throw seeding, RPI and literally every other basketball-related metric out the window. All that matters is how good a school's mascot would be head-to-head against the other mascots in the field of 68. The same rules apply—five players to a side, two 20-minute halves and 10-foot rims.
If the Selection Committee got anything right, it was avoiding any Wildcats vs. Wildcats or Bulldogs vs. Bulldogs matchups.
Before we reveal the bracket, here's a quick breakdown of the field.
There are several options here, both by seed and stature. Indiana could make as good of a case as any team in the field because, by definition, a Hoosier is a native or inhabitant of the (basketball-loving) state of Indiana, so you could take five kids from a YMCA in Fort Wayne, Ind., and have a good shot at winning the mascot bracket. However, we're going with VCU because the Rams have sneaky-good advanced analytics.
Thanks to their amazing balance, bighorn sheep can stand on ledges that are only 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. They can also jump 20 feet (6 m) and can go up a mountain at a brisk 15 mph (24 km/h). The only better mountain climbers in the animal world are mountain goats.
VCU sounds like a sure bet to go to the Elite Eight.
The Best First Round Matchup
Brady vs. Manning. Ali vs. Frazier. *NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys.
You can go ahead and add Mountaineers vs. Lumberjacks to the list of the best all-time rivalries. A West Virginia-Stephen F. Austin matchup has everything: Davy Crockett hats, epic beards and lots of plaid. Get your popcorn ready.
The Worst Team in the Field
Syracuse. Without question. Go to a grocery store, buy yourself five oranges, then go to the nearest basketball court and let them loose. They’ll provide you with Vitamin C but no D, O or any skill on the court because, well, they’re oranges.
(Click on the image to enlarge.)
We’re presented with a classic battle of Man vs. Beast, and because opposable thumbs might be the greatest asset in this bracket, mascots with hooves and claws are at an inherent disadvantage.
The two toughest matchups have to be the pair of Spartans-Trojans meetings in the Elite Eight and Final Four. Hours of research led me to the movie 300, which taught me that depth can be overstated and overrated, while the chemistry and physicality of the Spartans gives them an advantage in a five-on-five basketball game.
One thing remains the same in the real world and make-believe mascot brackets—you never bet against Izzo’s team in March.