In the first round of Slate’s NCAA mascot deathmatch, readers picked the Cyclones to level the Huskies, the Rams to bludgeon the Racers, and the Tigers to devour the Billikens. Now it’s time to see who advances to the Sweet 16. Can alligators slaughter tigers? Can wolverines bring down bulls? Again, the matchups are five-on-five, and take place in a spacious yet enclosed gym. (For the full rules and the results of our first-round reader surveys, check out the original write-ups.)
If you don’t agree with my analysis, register your dissent in the surveys below. The second-round winners will be determined based on your choices. Check back later this week to see who won the second-round matchups and vote on the Sweet 16.
No. 16 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils vs. No. 8 Iowa State Cyclones
In the mascot tournament, a No. 16 seed has as good a chance as any team to fight its way to the championship. But after tearing through Kentucky’s Wildcats in Round 1, the Delta Devils—pointy-eared orange demons who seem to be able to conjure fire from their palms—run into an overwhelming force in this matchup. The cyclone—which is actually a tornado, if you go by the intentions of the 19th-century Iowans who nicknamed the team—uses the demons’ pyromania against them, transforming into a nightmarish fire tornado. The demons are immolated in their green capes.
No. 5 Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 13 New Mexico State Aggies
These squads have a lot in common. Shockers harvest wheat; Aggies do agricultural stuff. Until 2005, this would have been an easy win for the Aggies. Their mascot was Pistol Pete, a gun-toting cowboy apparently modeled on a real-life Old West character named Frank Eaton. Now it’s just Pete, his weapon a lasso. Still, it’s enough to overcome the shockers, whose wheat-shaped mascot, WuShock, is armed with only a scowl.
No. 11 Colorado Buffaloes vs. No. 3 Baylor Bears
Buffaloes win. Here’s the evidence.
No. 10 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils
This showdown raises all sorts of epistemological questions. Do the musketeers carry muskets, as their nickname plainly implies, or just rapiers, as Alexandre Dumas’ fictionalized Three Musketeers were wont to do? The Xavier mascot is named D’Artagnan, an obvious Dumas reference—but also a real 17th-century figure who was reportedly killed by a musket ball in the Siege of Maastricht. As for the Blue Devils, we decided in the first round that they are French World War I fighters, not PMS 287-hued demons. In the end, the musketeers’ weaponry isn’t the deciding factor: The blue devils’ 20th-century weapons are far superior to flintlock muskets anyhow. What matters is whether D’Artagnan is as tricky as his fictional namesake—or as dead as his real-life inspiration. We say dead.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 8 Memphis Tigers
Another set of Spartans, from Norfolk State, lost to the Missouri Tigers in the first round. (Well, in our first round. The basketball tournament ended differently for the Tigers.) No reason to believe Sparty will fare any better.
No. 5 New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 13 Davidson Wildcats
The wildcats toyed with cardinals in the first round, while the lobos stalked and slayed a band of 49ers. This one’s a mismatch: The force of a grey wolf’s bite is twice that of a German shepherd, and its stomach can hold up to 20 pounds of food—enough for an average-sized wildcat, plus dessert.
No. 11 Colorado State Rams vs. No. 14 BYU Cougars
We picked the racers—a team of thoroughbreds and riders—to stomp the rams, but readers picked the hard-headed rams to butt their way through to the second round. Here, though, the outcome should be clear. Sheep, including bighorns, are a staple of the mountain lion’s diet.
No. 7 Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Missouri Tigers
The gators’ huge jaws and bony armor were too much for the cavaliers in the first round, while the tigers pounced on the Spartans. Now these two man-eaters face each other in one of the tournament’s premier matchups. The gators’ rough hides will again serve them well, and if they were in water they’d probably prevail. On a basketball court, though, the tigers will use their quickness to put the reptiles in a full-court press. Once that happens, this fight will unfold just like this video—the tiger will clamp onto its larger rival’s neck and dig in.