Admittedly, I am not a faithful follower of NCAA basketball throughout the season. However, all of that changes come mid-March when I watch enough basketball to last me a year (figuratively and literally). Last night the NCAA set the brackets for the 2023 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Some people refer to it as “madness”, but I’ll avoid that to steer clear of trademark infringement. As I watched the selection committee do their thing and pit teams against one-another, I got to thinking, “how well represented are dogs in this tournament?”. And then, before digging much more into it, “what would happen if I just chose the dog-based mascot teams to win. How would that look?”.
Maybe you are curious too; if so, here’s how that would look.
Dog Mascot Teams in 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament
- Gonzaga Bulldogs (West 3rd seed)
- UCONN Huskies (West 4th seed)
- Drake Bulldogs (Midwest 12th seed)
- Nevada Wolf Pack (West play-in game 11th seed)
- UNC Asheville Bulldogs (West 15th seed)
- NC State Wolfpack (South 11th seed)
- Mississippi State Bulldogs (Midwest play-in game 11th seed)
Whoa! Only seven teams out of 68 in the tournament have mascots that are dog-related. Wow, that seems low. Especially, when you compare that to how many are named after cats. I didn’t count the cats (you can), but it seems that are are seven teams that are the Tigers, alone.
What is the psychology of this? Why are so many more teams named after cats than dogs? Perhaps the “man’s best friend” thing plays in and the powers that be think that an animal in the dog (canine) family would not be as feared? I mean there are Panthers, Wildcats, Cougars, Tigers, Lions, …but for dogs there are only three types that made the tournament; Huskies, Wolf Pack (or one word) and Bulldogs.
Wait! What? Bulldogs? There goes my theory of naming a team mascot something “fearsome”. Bulldogs are family pets. In fact, according to the AKC, the bulldog is the 6th most popular breed of dog as a pet in the U.S. So these team mascot-choosers for Gonzaga, Drake, UNC Asheville and Mississippi State must have been attracted to the characteristics of bulldogs. Bulldogs are known to be tenacious and stubborn, among other, sweeter qualities. OK, that does seem to help explain why the name fits a college athletic team, at least better than the Labradors or the Golden Retrievers.
Sorry, SQUIRREL! I digress…
Betting on the Dogs
What would have to happen for the tournament to “go to the dogs”? Well, it would contain a lot of upsets. While Gonzaga Bulldogs are a 3-seed and University of Connecticut Huskies are a 4-seed, none of the other dogs rank higher than an 11-seed in their region. That’s a lot of under-dogs!
But you’ve come this far with me to read how it needs to play out, so you can fill out your own bracket accordingly, so let’s dive in.
First off, no dogs in the fight in the East region. We will ignore them completely.
As for the South region, we must pull for the NC State Wolfpack. They play a flock of Blue Jays from Creighton on Friday. After that, they will likely need to beat Bears from Baylor and then Wildcats (dang cats) from Arizona and then finally the Crimson Tide from Alabama – just to be the best of the South. Is it doable? Yep, they are a Wolfpack! Is it probable? Well, let’s just say it’ll be tough, and if they do it, and you chose them to do it, you are likely leading your own NCAA pool – good luck!
In the MidWest region there are possibly 2 Bulldogs to cheer on. I say possibly, because Mississippi State has to win a “play-in” game Tuesday night against the Panthers from Pitt. Dogs vs Cats right out of the gate. Betting with my heart over a real animal showdown, I’ll say Mississippi State prevails. That only means that they earn the right to battle a Cyclone on Friday from Iowa State, then a bunch of Musketeers from Xavier, then Longhorns from, where else, Texas…I’ll pause there, because there is another group of Bulldogs we need to catch up on.
Meanwhile, also in the MidWest region, the Drake Bulldogs square off against the Hurricanes of Miami. (editor’s note: interesting that Bulldogs are facing the Cyclones and other Bulldogs are facing Hurricanes, lots of weather-based opponents here). Once overcoming the Hurricane, these Bulldogs must most likely beat some Hoosiers from Indiana and then Cougars from Houston (cats…again).
But if…I mean WHEN this happens we have an ALL-BULLDOG showdown in the Midwest region in the “Elite 8” round; Mississippi State vs Drake. Here, you need to choose your preferred Bulldog. This is like choosing your favorite child…or pet, but for this tournament, you HAVE TO DO IT. I live in St. Louis, so I am going with the regional tie to Des Moines, so in my dog-eat-dog battle (ewwww), I go with Drake Bulldogs.
Which brings us to the West region. Lots of dogs here. In fact, almost 1/4 of this bracket are dogs. This is going to be a dog-fight. Let’s start with the top-seeded dog.
Gonzaga Bulldogs, they are standing tall vs the Lopes of Grand Canyon in the 1st round…and then whoops, they might have to face off against the Nevada Wolf Pack in round 2. The Wolf Pack gets to this showdown by downing the Sun Devils of Arizona State on a play-in game on Wed, then needing to beat the Horned Frogs (gotta admit, love that mascot) of Texas Christian University, aka TCU. So early tough decision of Bulldogs vs Wolf Pack. Going with team ranking here, over common sense, of Wolf Pack vs domesticated dog, I am sticking with the stubborn Bulldogs of Gonzaga.
But wait! The very next game could put those same Bulldogs up against more Bulldogs. This time the UNC Asheville Bulldogs could be snarling at those higher-ranked Bulldogs. UNC Asheville will have had a tough few battles to get this far. First they would have needed a HUGE upset over the Bruins of UCLA—unlikely, but possible! Then they would have knocked off the Wildcats of Northwestern (more kitty-cats). So in this dog-gone Bulldog showdown, I again relent to the standings and rankings and choose Gonzaga to prevail.
But there’s one more dog-mascot-team to consider. The Huskies of UCONN have been blazing their own trail also in the West region. The Huskies had to beat the Gaels of Iona (look it up), and then…you won’t believe this…they have to beat more Gaels, this time of St. Mary’s. Then the Huskies have to beat the reigning champions, the Jayhawks of Kansas, just so there can be another dog vs. dog match of Gonzaga Bulldogs vs UCONN Huskies. If you’re following the rankings this is a #3 vs #4—which would be a great game—but in my doggie world, the Huskies are prevailing over Bulldogs.
Final Four – Canines Rule
- South Region: NC State Wolfpack
- Midwest Region: Drake Bulldogs
- West Region: UCONN Huskies
- East Region: Who cares? No dogs to bet on
At this point I’ll let you choose your dog to take through to the national championship. How can you really go wrong? The Huskies and the Bulldogs would square off in the Final 4 leaving the winner of that pack to play the Wolfpack of NC State.
Now take your new knowledge of all of the dog teams (and the 2 Gaels) and fill out your own brackets, bet on the dogs if you like upsets in this year’s tournament and if…sorry, WHEN the dogs do prevail, you’ll be sitting pretty in your bracket.
For me, I’m going Huskies.
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