The best part of college basketball, of course, is the mascots. Whether you have the CBS College Basketball theme music memorized or just pick teams because of their colors, the mascots are a universal delight. There are live animals, people dressed up as animals, and weather phenomena personified.
It’s that time of year again. Snow is melting, the sun is making appearances of longer than 2 hours at a time, and college basketball is reaching its pinnacle. Oh, the glory of the NCAA Tournament. Bracket-busters, upsets, and office pools.
The best part of college basketball, of course, is the mascots. Whether you have the CBS College Basketball theme music memorized or just pick teams because of their colors, the mascots are a universal delight. There are live animals, people dressed up as animals, and weather phenomena personified (I’m looking at you, Tulsa).
Last fall, ESPN’s Dana O’Neil ranked the top 10 mascots in college basketball. We thought it would be a good time to revisit that list, particularly if you make your bracket choices based on school mascots.
Disclaimer: The writer of this post, as well as the editor, are alumni of (and former sports writers at) schools listed. This is merely a coincidence, and O’Neil’s rankings have not been altered despite any allegiances.
10. Michigan State’s Sparty
More Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade than “300,” Sparty is a loveable warrior in green. While no one has accused him of PEDMs (Performance Enhancing Dance Moves), his muscles are abnormally large. With Tom Izzo leading the charge and Sparty at the end line, no wonder Michigan State has historically been so successful in the NCAA Tournament.
Bad news for those bears! Victory for MSU! A great way to bring in the new year with Spartan Nation! pic.twitter.com/jJwLRsOMNr
— Sparty (@TheRealSparty) January 1, 2015
9. Butler’s Blue III
He holds mascot summits with Jack the Bulldog, he has his own vehicle, and he takes over the TODAY show plaza. Butler Blue III (Trip) has big paws to fill, as his predecessor oversaw 2 Butler Final Four runs. Luckily for Trip, he’s already won the hearts and minds of Bulldog fans and alums, particularly on his Big Dawgs Tour.
— Butler Blue III (@ButlerBlue3) March 15, 2015
8. Stanford’s Tree
Few institutes of higher learning have a more notorious mascot than the Stanford Tree. Between a suspension, bans and a televised wrestling match, the Tree is as synonymous with shenanigans as it is with the school it represents.
— Kurt Gulsvig (@KurtyG82) March 28, 2014
7. Syracuse’s Otto the Orange
Is it a fruit? Is it a color swatch? Is it an animated blob? Whatever it is, Otto has a sweet Nike hat and a lot of wins under its non-existent belt. And who doesn’t need a giant shot of bright orange in the middle of an Upstate New York winter!
— Otto The Orange (@TheOttoOrange) September 5, 2014
6. Tulsa’s Captain Cane
— Captain Cane means mid-major toughness. With Frank Haith, who has also coached the Hurricanes at University of Miami, at the helm, come wind or rain or hail, Tulsa can weather any basketball challenge. Insert additional weather play-on-words.
He’s gone through several iterations in recent years, but one thing is for certain
— Nathan Thompson (@NathanDThompson) March 22, 2014
5. Wisconsin’s Bucky the Badger
When you say ‘Wisconsin’ … a small mammal with a bad attitude is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Bucky lives up to his biological namesake, with NSFW t-shirts suggesting what he should do to opposing teams and his share of run-ins with the authorities over the years. His cheeky antics are almost as fun to watch as Wisconsin’s up-tempo offense this season.
— Bucky Badger (@UWBuckyBadger) March 14, 2015
4. St. Joseph’s Hawk
Like a creepy Thanksgiving dinner returning from the dead, the St. Joseph’s Hawk is in constant movement during games, always flapping his or her wings. The hoops mascot, though, has it pretty good. Unlike Blue III, St. Joe’s live, red-tailed hawks don’t get any indoor appearances. It just keeps flapping and flapping and flapping….
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 29, 2015
3. Stephen F. Austin’s Lumberjack
He carries an axe. Don’t mess with the Lumberjacks (or Ladyjacks, if the women’s tournament is more interesting to you). Just like any person wielding a large, tree-felling instrument, the Lumberjacks will
this season after a successful tournament run last year. Doesn’t matter — don’t mess with this Texas mullet.
— Kyler Nielsen (@KylerNielsen) March 22, 2014
2. Tennessee’s Smokey
The second canine on O’Neil’s list, Smokey is an old-school mascot. He’s cute. He’s fuzzy. He’s cartoonish. However, the man-in-costume version used for basketball has nothing on
the live blue-tick hound.
— Kathy MacLachlan (@KathMacL) January 13, 2014
1. St. Louis’ Billiken
Before you ask, a Billiken is an elfin pixie that brings good luck. It was created by a Kansas City teacher and illustrator, and adopted by SLU in 1911 after a sportswriter referred to the school’s football team as the Billikens. And while the Kewpie-ish mascot’s presence alone should bring good luck to the team, the additional
are sure to help.
Getting ready for UMass-Saint Louis in a few minutes. I can't get enough of the Billiken mascot. pic.twitter.com/AHLSyDoQHl
— Josh Maurer (@JoshMaurerRadio) January 31, 2015