Duke, Chattanooga, and nine other odious schools in this year's NCAA tournament.

The stadium scene.
March 16 2005 4:05 PM

Teams We Hate

Duke, Chattanooga, and nine other odious schools in this year's NCAA tournament.

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Texas Tech University, Big 12 Conference, No. 6 in Albuquerque Region The only Texas Tech alumni I can name other than me played football or shot Ronald Reagan. Lubbock was a wondrous place to eat meat or hear a band, but uglier than a group "before" shot from The Swan. There's a reason all the postcards show Buddy Holly or a bale of cotton. Lubbock is flatter than whichever Olsen twin doesn't eat and has all the greenery of the moon. Even the sky gets ugly this time of year. The winds kick up loose topsoil from the South Plains cotton fields and everything—cars, teeth, blondes—turns the color of dry dirt.

To outsiders, a "dust storm," as townies call these brown-outs, sure seems like a trailer for Armageddon. From what I read last year about the new basketball coach's dust-up with Texas Tech superiors, the place is a little uglier with Bobby Knight in town. Reports had university Chancellor David Smith chatting with Athletic Director Gerald Myers while both happened to be getting lunch at the same salad bar. As they discussed Knight's recent behaviors, who bellies up to the same salad bar but the coach himself. Knight didn't like something he heard over his bed of lettuce, so a public squabble full of all the tired Knightly lo-jinks ensued.

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But he's still the coach. Knight can get away with being Knight only in a one sneeze-guard town. This all reminded me of a road trip early into my college years, when, about 280 miles to the east, I passed a tiny central Texas city called Cool (pop. 162, says the 2000 census). To this day I haven't heard a better way to nutshell Lubbock than "about 280 miles from Cool." —Dave McKenna

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University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Southern Conference, No. 15 in Albuquerque Region At 20-10, the Chattanooga Mocs aren't good enough to make a Cinderella run in this year's tournament. They're also not putrid enough to be lovable losers. What are they, then? An in-depth investigation shows UTC's identity crisis extends well beyond wins and losses. So confused is Chattanooga's self-image that for nearly a century the school has snatched aimlessly from a grotesque mascot grab bag filled to the brim with half-realized creatures, ethnic stereotypes, and footwear.

From 1920 to the early 1990s, the second-largest university in the University of Tennessee system * was represented by: a snake; Chief Chattamoc, a singin', dancin' Injun conceived by a local "Native American enthusiast"; a shoe named Little Moc; and Chief Moccanooga, yet another happy-go-lucky Indian. In 1996, a 17-person panel made the startling discovery that Chief No. 2 "offended a large number of people." UTC then asked a design firm to help create a new identity. The result: the most incoherent mess of logos in all of college sports.

Step one: Officially shorten nickname from "Moccasins" to "Mocs," a punchier if still shoe-related word. Step two: Stretching "Mocs" to wit's end, replace snake, shoe, and Indian with "Scrappy," an aggressive mockingbird who doubles as (and dresses like) an old-timey railroad conductor. Scrappy pilots the "Choo-Choo," an obvious local favorite featuring a "Cowcatcher" to push objects—discarded mascots?—from the tracks. It's a bird! It's a train! No, it's the UT-Chattanooga … loosely related things!

Chattanooga will no doubt lose big to Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAAs. That is, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons—now there's a mascot that makes sense.—Chris Park

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University of Pennsylvania, Ivy League, No. 13 in Chicago Region In the documentary My Architect, Philadelphian Louis Kahn is seen giving his famous lecture about how to converse with a brick—"What do you want, brick?"—to a bunch of Penn students. After the Quakers get trounced by Boston College, I hope they remember Kahn's words. What does brick want? Brick wants you to go home. And don't come back until you learn how to shoot.

Not that I hate the Quakers, but Ivy League basketball is a binary sport. I'd rather be watching the Princeton Tigers, or, as I call them, those eating-club losers. The "Princeton offense," with its emphasis on ball movement, three-point shooting, and backdoor cuts, is the perfect scheme for losing first-round nail biters.

Better yet, the NCAA should get rid of the Ivy League's automatic bid altogether. I'm sick of these invasive quas-Ivies. After all, as my grandmother used to point out, the only real Ivy League schools are Harvard and Yale. Everything else might as well be Creighton.—Felix Gillette

Correction, March 16: This piece originally and incorrectly included the logo of the Penn State Nittany Lions, not the Pennsylvania Quakers. Correction, March 18:The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the second-largest school in the University of Tennessee system, not the second-largest in the state of Tennessee. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Mike DeBonis is the political columnist for Washington City Paper.

Felix Gillette is a reporter for the Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily.

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

Dave McKenna is a writer in Washington D.C.

Chris Park is a lawyer in San Francisco.

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

Chris Suellentrop is the deputy editor for blogs at Yahoo News and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. He has reviewed video games for Slate, Rolling Stone, and NewYorker.com. Follow him on Twitter.