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The 2021 March Madness mascot death match bracket

Only one mascot can reign supreme.

CAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Drexel v Elon Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Imagine for a moment that there is no basketball. No games are played, no nets cut down — but instead we gather every March for a tournament to decide college mascot supremacy. Brutal, gladiatorial-style battles to determine not who rules a single sport, but the masters of life and death itself.

Some ground rules before we get started:

  1. The bracket assumes a team mascot’s real world equivalent, not its depiction on the court. No points will be deducted for smiling mascots.
  2. There is a writer’s tilt added for certain external forces. For example, you’ll see I have the UNC Greensboro Spartans beating a tiger, but the Michigan State Spartans losing to that same tiger. It’s because Michigan State is sponsored by Rocket Mortgage, and it’s my belief that the financial pressure of maintaining a home on a Spartan’s salary would create distraction.
  3. If you’re foolish enough to copy this bracket for your pool, and end up winning, you’re required to donate 50 percent of the winnings to charity.

Let’s jump right into talking about the Elite 8

Missouri Tigers vs. USC Trojans

This is a tough one, because my general feeling is that tiger > human, but I have to go with a Trojan here because they have fighting experience. Tigers are never codified into service and forced to fight for their people, instead relying on instinct. I think the tiger has all the intangibles to win, but against a trained, armored warrior with the reach advantage thanks to a dory (Trojan spear), I just don’t see a tiger being able to achieve victory.

UNC Greensboro Spartans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Similar to a Trojan, Spartans also carried a dory, along with a shield. These are great at fighting people, but terrible at taking down an elephant. In the movie 300 we got a taste of the spartan vs. elephant battle, but that involved hundreds of Spartans in a phalanx, not just one in an arena. Instinct and size alone are enough to carry the pachyderm to victory.

Baylor Bears vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

There is no animal on land I fear more than a bear. Bears are scary as hell. I totally understand the Red Raider (known more accurately as the “masked rider”) has two six-shooters at his side, but this is a grown-ass bear we’re talking about. I’ve seen The Revenant, and this is more or less the same situation. The bear is faster, stronger, and more instinctual at eating a human, than a human is at killing a bear. This is fairly easy.

Drexel Dragons vs. Cleveland State Vikings

It’s a dragon. A whole friggin’ dragon. Air superiority, fire breath, massive jaws with razor sharp teeth dragon. Sorry Cleveland State, but Drexel is eating you faster than I inhale a plate of Swedish Meatballs at Ikea.

Now, on to the Final Four

USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Bama gets a sweet run to the natty here thanks to an almost identical matchup to their Elite 8 battle against the Spartans. The biggest test the elephant faced this whole time was the UCLA Bruins, and that was back in the Sweet 16. All the same logic applies here, and the Crimson Tide stomp the Trojans into oblivion.

Baylor Bears vs. Drexel Dragons

This is such a shame, because I’d actually love to see a battle between a dragon and a bear when all things are equal — but they’re not, because life is unfair. Every one of the bear’s basic advantages against land-bound animals is destroyed when facing a leathery-skinned dragon. Even if we assume for a second that the flight and the fire breath isn’t an issue, I honestly don’t know if a bear’s claws and teeth have the capability of puncturing a dragon’s leathery hide enough to cause damage.

And in the National Championship

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Drexel Dragons

This seems almost less fair than the Final Four. The elephant’s primary mode of killing in this battle scenario has been stomping, and trunk swinging. Neither do a damn thing against a flying dragon. Honestly, this tournament is more a indictment of the selection committee than anything else. The fact they allowed a mythological creature in at all is deeply unfair, and warrants closer look for future years.

That’s not to take anything away from Drexel. The dragons earned their place in the championship, and won the right to hoard the trophy at the end, along with the other gold its surely accumulated in its underground wealth cavern.