When it comes to picking winning horses at the track my wife and mom usually do better than yours truly because they like certain colors and names.
Maybe it’s time I use the same formula to fill out my NCAA men’s basketball bracket. Clearly my track record is lousy after I spend hours studying rpi, looking at key injuries, and pouring over potential match-ups.
Let’s begin with mascots and team nicknames. Saint Louis University flew under the radar this season because the Billikens are rarely on network television. In 1911, local sports writers claimed SLU’s football coach looked like a popular troll doll called “Billiken”. The name stuck.
If that doesn’t make sense, remember Saint Louis has dedicated its season to former coach Rick Majerus, who died last December. A team of overachieving Billikens won the Atlantic 10 Conference and is a deserving 4 seed.
I’ve always liked the Golden Gopher mascot for Minnesota. The 2013 band of gophers emerge from the battle-tested Big 10 and present a physically imposing challenge for the UCLA Bruins.
You have to like a school courageous enough to refer to its teams as rubber boots or galoshes. That would be the Zips or (zippers) of Akron University. Unfortunately they face the always tough Virginia Commonwealth in the second round of the south region.
Georgetown Hoyas certainly made my all nickname list when Patrick Ewing and company won the 1984 National Championship in Seattle over Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma. Watching Georgetown in the Big East this year, I’m not convinced I will take the mythical rocks, (Hoya Saxa) to go very far.
New Mexico Lobos, Indiana Hoosiers, Albany Great Danes, North Carolina Tarheels, and Wichita State Shockers are really cool mascots and nicknames. While most fans refer to Gonzaga as the “Zags”, I know they’re actually Bulldogs. You can no longer list Gonzaga on the “Cinderella” list of team’s either.
In the past decade there has been at least one school with an animal nickname reach the Final 4. Not a bad choice with so many Cougars, Bears, Eagles and Tigers in the field.
If you base your picks on school colors, note the Syracuse Orange won the whole thing in 2003. Since then every champion has had some blue in the color scheme. Duke Blue Devils might not be a bad choice in this tournament.
Finally, if you have a favorite head coach, here’s another factor to digest. Since 1991, the first name of the winning coach has three or four letters. That might be a good omen for Gonzaga’s Mark Few.
I just wish the University of California Irvine Anteaters had made the tournament.
-Bill Swartz, 1090TheFan
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