The Sweet 16 of Slate’s mascot death match brought some memorable clashes. The South Florida Bulls overpowered the Vermont Catamounts, winning 66 percent of readers’ votes. The West Virginia Mountaineers shot down the Florida State Seminoles, 59 to 41. And in an upset perhaps fueled by a surge of Duke hatred, the Colorado Buffaloes trampled the Blue Devils—an ignominious defeat for an allegedly elite unit that also fell short against the Germans in World War I. Now we’re down to the regional finals. In a reversal of how things go in the real NCAA tournament, only high seeds remain. The rules for how these mascot tussles work—the basics: it’s five-on-five, to the death, in a basketball gym—are outlined here. Read our takes below, then vote in the survey at the bottom of the page to determine who’ll make it to the Final Four.
No. 8 Iowa State Cyclones vs. No. 11 Colorado Buffaloes
The buffalo’s size and power must give pause to even the greatest of beasts. Yet tornadoes are not beasts, and they don't pause. Real-life tornadoes may not have quite the same effect as they do in the movie Twister, which shows a cow whirled around in circles as it moos phlegmatically—but strong ones can certainly lift one-ton objects, and they do sometimes kill livestock en masse. That usually requires a direct hit, which is rare on the open prairie, but would be almost inevitable in a gymnasium, at least while the walls remained standing. The question, then, is whether any of the five buffalo could either hunker down and endure the twisters, or be tossed clear without breaking their legs or necks in the landing. Buffalo present a broad profile, raising the odds that they’ll catch the brunt of the blow. And bovines aren’t exactly catlike in their ability to land on their feet. So long, Ralphie.
No. 8 Memphis Tigers vs. No. 7 Florida Gators
In a reprise of a wild second-round skirmish, the gators take on another set of tigers. There's no reason to think that hypothetical tigers from Memphis would be any more ferocious than the hypothetical ones a few hundred miles away in Missouri, which the gators nipped by a 52-48 margin. And after sinking their teeth into cougars last round, these gators are surely becoming expert in the art of slaying big cats. But could their success lull them into complacency here, as sometimes happens when an NCAA team faces an opponent it defeated in the regular season? Couldn’t these tigers watch tape of that second-round contest and exploit the gators’ vulnerabilities? No: Tigers don't watch tape.
No. 13 Montana Grizzlies vs. No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers
A battle between five men with rifles and five angry grizzlies in an enclosed space would be—like life in Hobbes’ state of nature—nasty, brutish, and short. Who comes out alive might depend on how far apart the two teams are at the outset. If they started at opposite baselines, the mountaineers would have time to pick off a couple of bears and reload before the others got close enough to rip them to shreds. If they’re arrayed around center court, as with basketball players before the opening tip, the mountaineers probably won’t make it to the first TV timeout. They might stand a chance if they were armed with the “Davy Crockett” nuclear rifle; alas, the Mountaineers mascot carries something more like Davy Crockett’s actual rifle. The bears will take a couple of bullets, then feast.
No. 12 South Florida Bulls vs. No. 15 Detroit Titans
The Titans, elder gods of Greek mythology, have already laid waste to jayhawks, boilermakers, and bruins. Their star, Atlas, has carried the load in some previous matchups, but in this one he’ll take a breather and let his teammate Oceanus (the limitless river that encircles the world) carry the bulls away.