NCAA Moniker Bracketology

In accordance with Sport Change’s authoritative, immutable rules regarding sports team nicknames, here is the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball bracket.


If you’re new to the site, click on the NCAA tab (above) to view our comprehensive Division I moniker study.  For the top 100 moniker list, click here.

Essentially, we could simply rank every moniker in D-I, and then fill out the bracket in a formulaic fashion.  Two reasons why we’re doing the old fashioned way: 1.) This is basketball specific.  2.) It’s more fun this way.  Let’s just get right into it.




ROUND 1 (play-in round)

North Carolina A&T Aggies vs. Liberty Flames.  This one is fairly easy.  Aggies is overused in D-I, and doesn’t earn any points from being attached to NC A&T.  Though ‘Flames’ is kind of a lame name (*cough Calgary cough*) Liberty at least makes clever use of it.  Victor: Flames

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. St. Mary’s Gaels.  As enticing as the color blue is, I do not understand the concept of taking ‘Raiders’ and coloring them; a la Texas Tech Red Raiders.  Though I consider them the lesser of the two Gael, we’ll give St. Mary’s the win here.  After all, selection Sunday was St. Patrick’s day this year.  Victor: Gaels.

Boise State Broncos vs. La Salle Explorers.  Boise State makes good use of Broncos, but Denver owns that nickname.  In the Sport Change top 100, La Salle ranked 32nd overall in D-I.  A no brainer.  Victor: Explorers.

LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds vs. James Madison Dukes.  Though I do like ‘Dukes’ as a moniker, this would only be a contest if it were the Duquesne Dukes, not the “bulldog” Dukes.  LIU-Brooklyn has a unique and excellent moniker that works at any level of play.  Victor: Blackbirds.


This year’s dark horse is a dark bird.






Louisville Cardinals vs. Liberty Flames.  Though ‘Cardinals’ is about as overused as it gets, Louisville is second only to St. Louis in ownership of that moniker.  Liberty flames out quickly here.  Victor: Cardinals.

Colorado St. Rams vs. Missouri Tigers.  Oh, boy.  If only there were a moniker seeding system.  Both of these nicknames are pro-type monikers that are very overused.  Of the two, ‘Tigers’ is the one that you can’t throw a stick without hitting.  It’ll come up again, so we’ll give CSU the nod here.  Victor: Rams.

Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Oregon Ducks.  Quack.  Enough said.  Victor: Ducks.

Saint Louis Billikens vs. New Mexico State Aggies.  Another Aggie that has no chance.  Saint Louis has a moniker that personifies the fun and whimsy of the collegiate level.  Victor: Billikens.

Memphis Tigers vs. St. Mary’s Gaels.  Apples and oranges here.  Since there is another Gael in the tournament, we’ll let Memphis advance to represent striped felines everywhere.  Victor: Tigers.

Michigan State Spartans vs. Valparaiso Crusaders.  Two armored historic figures square off in round 2.  Though MSU owns the Spartans nickname, Valpo benefits from the pleasing sound that Valparaiso and Crusaders make when placed together.  Victor: Crusaders.

Creighton Blue Jays vs. Cincinnati Bearcats.  This is a tough one to call.  Creighton does a great job with color-coordination, and the bird is ubiquitous enough that Toronto can’t quite claim full ownership of it.  Cincinnati certainly owns ‘Bearcats,’ which needs to mentioned considering that there are a whopping three Bearcats/Bearkats in D-I.  It’s always been a bit of an oddball moniker anyway, so we’ll say that Creighton wins by a beak.  Victor: Blue Jays.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Albany Great Danes.  No contest.  Bow wow.  Victor: Great Danes.


Great Danes: eating Blue Devils for breakfast.



Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Southern Jaguars.  Here’s an interesting matchup between two very overused monikers.  I’ve always felt that Gonzaga should have a more interesting moniker than they do, so we’ll give Southern the edge.  Victor: Jaguars.

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Wichita State Shockers.  Tough to compare the two: one elicits respect and power while the other incites giggles and guffaws.  The choice is easy.  Victor: Panthers.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Ole Miss Rebels.  One is a state nickname moniker that also happens to be a fierce and funny creature.  The other is a cringe-worthy reminder of the Civil War.  Victor: Badgers.

Kansas State Wildcats vs. La Salle Explorers.  Not a tough decision at all.  La Salle, the round one play-in, sails forward.  Victor: Explorers.

Arizona Wildcats vs. Belmont Bruins.  Here’s a kitty that has earned it’s stripes going tooth-to-tooth with a lesser-known bear of the brown variety.  Victor: Wildcats.

New Mexico Lobos vs. Harvard Crimson.  I love this culture-collision match-up: Albuquerque vs. Cambridge.  The only thing that’s crimson is the blood on the ivy after the wolves take care of business.  Victor: Lobos.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Iowa State Cyclones.  Though Notre Dame has it’s fans, Iowa State has claimed ownership on an underappreciated moniker.  Victor: Cyclones.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Iona Gaels.  Though OSU has a fun state nickname, Iona is the representative  of the St. Patrick’s selection Sunday.  Victor: Gaels.


Selection Sunday was on St. Patrick’s Day this year. That’s gotta be lucky for the Gaels.



Kansas Jayhawks vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.  WKU is a snoozer, so KU cruises with their weird bird.  Victor: Jayhawks.

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Villanova Wildcats.  Another bland wild cat is stepped on by a unique, historically-relevant moniker.  Victor: Tar Heels.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. Akron Zips.  We’ve already advanced a ram, so it makes it all the easier to go with the kangaroo.  Victor: Zips.

Michigan Wolverines vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits.  This is an unfortunate seeding.  The bunnies should advance much further, but they are bitten in the neck by a ferocious and historic nickname.  Victor: Wolverines.

UCLA Bruins vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Though UCLA shares respectable ownership with Boston, I’m just not a fan of the nickname.  Minnesota, goofy as it may be, has a more unique nickname.  Victor: Golden Gophers.

Florida Gators vs. Northwestern State Demons.  It would be nice to advance good ol’ just ‘Demons,’ but Florida is too good.  Victor: Gators.

San Diego State Aztecs vs. Oklahoma Sooners.  Not really a contest.  Though some find it offensive, SD St. has a pretty cool nickname.  Victor: Aztecs.

Georgetown Hoyas vs. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.  Ugh.  Uneven seeding strikes again.  I guess we’ll go with Georgetown.  Victor: Hoyas.


For the record, a ‘hoya’ is not a bulldog. Georgetown advances due to uneven seeding.



Indiana Hoosiers vs. LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds.  Take these broken wings and learn to fly…past bland Indiana.  Victor: Blackbirds.

NC State Wolfpack vs. Temple Owls.  Wolfpack ain’t bad, as far as non-pluralable nicknames go.  It doesn’t matter when matched up against the moniker that was ranked 5th overall in D-I.  Victor: Owls.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels vs. Cal Golden Bears.  Las Vegas has the bizarrely misplaced Southern gentleman, while Berkeley has the big animal from their state flag.  Victor: Golden Bears.

Syracuse Orange vs. Montana Grizzlies.  This is like comparing oranges with…things that could eat oranges if they were so inclined.  Montana is about as good as it gets.  Victor: Grizzlies.

Butler Bulldogs vs. Bucknell Bison.  Wow for alliteration!  Butler makes as good of a case for representing the whole kennel of canines in D-I, but I’ve got to go with Bucknell.  Victor: Bison.

Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Davidson Wildcats.  Too many wild cats, not enough mics.  Victor: Golden Eagles.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Colorado Buffaloes.  A nickname considered offensive vs. a badass beast of the prairie.  Victor: Buffaloes.

Miami Hurricanes vs. Pacific Tigers.  We’ve already advanced a tiger, so we’ll go with the weather phenomenon.  Victor: Hurricanes.


The storks live to fight another day.





Louisville Cardinals vs. Colorado State Rams.  Here’s another one of those “pro-team moniker” matchups.  Louisville might not deserve the Sweet 16, but seedings aren’t based on team nicknames.  Victor: Cardinals.

Oregon Ducks vs. Saint Louis Billikens.  Toughie.  Both are very solid, and the Billikens are a perennial March Madness favorite.  That said, Oregon is quackers.  Victor: Ducks.

Memphis Tigers vs. Valparaiso Crusaders.  Neither one should scratch the Sweet 16, but Valpo is the clear winner here.  Victor: Crusaders.

Creighton Blue Jays vs. Albany Great Danes.  On the animal side of things, Albany barks the birds back up the tree.  Victor: Great Danes.

Southern Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Panthers.  Battle of the Cats!  Alliteration is a definite plus, and this isn’t much of a cat fight.  Victor: Panthers.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. La Salle Explorers.  Two very solid monikers go head to head, but we’ll give Wisco the nod based on the ferocity factor.  Victor: Badgers.

Arizona Wildcats vs. New Mexico Lobos.  I love it–Arizona and New Mexico should be going head to head.  It’s the border battle!  Cats vs. Dogs!  I look forward to watching this game actually transpire.  In the moniker world, UNM takes the cake.  Victor: Lobos

Iowa State Cyclones vs. Iona Gaels.  Iowa vs. Iona.  Say it ten times fast.  ISU represents the forces of nature.  Victor: Cyclones.


Just like Miami–I’m not sure I get the whole ‘bird=weather phenomena’ concept.

Kansas Jayhawks vs. North Carolina Tar Heels.  An epic matchup of popular teams with weird, vaguely-historic nicknames.  UNC’s is more creative.  Victor: Tar Heels.

Akron Zips vs. Michigan Wolverines.  Zips is pure fun, but the gimmick pales in comparison to a historically relevant giant weasel.  Victor: Wolverines.

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Florida Gators.  That is a hilarious visual.  Chomp, crunch, gopher for lunch.  Victor: Gators.

San Diego State Aztecs vs. Georgetown Hoyas.  A potentially offensive nickname against a perplexing fight song remnant.  Must be college.  Potentially implies speculation.  Victor: Aztecs.

LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds vs. Temple Owls.  Awesome!  The battle of the birds.  This could’ve happened in later rounds, but flight paths crossed early.  It’s a toughie, but Temple has been making brackets fun for kids for decades.  Victor: Owls.

Cal Golden Bears vs. Montana Grizzlies.  I love it!  The Brown Bear Bowl.  Montana gets the upper paw here by making a more specific reference.  Victor: Grizzlies.

Bucknell Bison vs. Marquette Golden Eagles.  As cool as anything sounds with the word ‘golden’ in front of it, Marquette’s moniker is overused and generic.  Victor: Bison.

Colorado Buffaloes vs. Miami Hurricanes.  Apples and oranges, but the answer is clear.  Especially when glancing ahead at the matchup in the next round.  Victor: Buffaloes.


Bring on the Buffabowl!





The teams:  Louisville Cardinals, Oregon Ducks, Valparaiso Crusaders, Albany Great Danes, Pittsburgh Panthers, Wisconsin Badgers, New Mexico Lobos, Iowa State Cyclones, North Carolina Tar Heels, Michigan Wolverines, Florida Gators, San Diego State Aztecs, Temple Owls, Montana Grizzlies, Bucknell Bison, Colorado Buffaloes

It’s important to remember here that these are not the top 16 monikers in the tournament.  It’s a good list, but without thinking too much about it, I’d sub in Billikens, Blackbirds, and Explorers for Cardinals, Crusaders, and Bison.  


The Billikens should be here. Unfortunately, the NCAA doesn’t seed based on strength of moniker.


Anyhow, here are the Sweet Sixteen match-ups:

Louisville Cardinals vs. Oregon Ducks.  Where do these teams stand in the pecking order?  Waterfowl prevail in the Big Bowl.  Victor: Ducks.

Valparaiso Crusaders vs. Albany Great Danes.  It’s hard to believe that Albany has lasted this long.  In a world of Terriers, Retrievers, Greyhounds, and Salukis; we have one lone domesticated dog that has cruised through favorable seeding.  Victor: Great Danes.

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Wisconsin Badgers.  Intense.  As respectable as Pitt is, their moniker is fairly generic and overused.  Victor: Badgers.

New Mexico Lobos vs. Iowa State Cyclones.  In the words of the band Los Lobos: “Will the wolf survive?”  Yes.  Victor: Lobos.

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Michigan Wolverines.  Another epic moniker duel of nicknames that refer to scrappy folks of bygone eras.  Pretty easy to make this choice, though.  Victor: Wolverines.

Florida Gators vs. San Diego State Aztecs.  I’m starting to realize that I have a major thing for animal nicknames.  Victor: Gators.

Temple Owls vs. Montana Grizzlies.  The War of the Woods concludes with the raptor sinking it’s talons into the bear’s eyes.   Victor: Owls.

Bucknell Bison vs. Colorado Buffaloes.  The Buffabowl!  Non-singularable/non-pluralable nicknames are lame, so Colorado thunder on down the prairie.  Victor: Buffaloes.


And the Buffabowl goes to…*drumroll*……the Buffaloes!





Ducks.  Great Danes.  Badgers.  Lobos.  Wolverines.  Gators.  Owls.  Buffaloes.  I’ve missed my calling–I should’ve been a veterinarian.

Oregon Ducks vs. Albany Great Danes.  The duck will quack and the dane will have it’s day.  Not today, though.  Victor: Ducks.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. New Mexico Lobos.  They battle tooth and nail, but a quirky linguistic reference puts the wolf on top.  That, and the Badgers always have football to fall back on.  Victor: Lobos.

Temple Owls vs. Colorado Buffaloes.  Give a hoot.  Victor: Owls.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Florida Gators.  Worthy opponents, but never bet against a determined reptile.  Victor: Gators.


Do the Gators have enough teeth to advance?





Oregon Ducks, New Mexico Lobos, Florida Gators, Temple Owls.  Let’s do this.

Florida Gators vs. Temple Owls.  Think John Chaney.  Victor: Owls.

Oregon Ducks vs. New Mexico Lobos.  Teeth sink in; one last muffled quack.  Victor: Lobos.


Loco for the Lobos.





New Mexico Lobos vs. Temple Owls.  Something about Temple just screams March Madness.  Since filling out my first brackets as a kid, I’ve been picking Temple to advance well beyond their means year after year.  If there can be no Drexel Dragons or Maryland Terrapins, the answer is easy.  CHAMPION: Temple Owls.


How could it not be the Owls?


Alright–mission accomplished.  If I were more tech savvy, there would be a cool bracket to look at with the logos in place of the college name.  Until I get hired by Grantland, this will have to suffice.  It will interesting to see if any of these moniker matchups will actually happen in any rounds deeper than round 3.  It would also be fun to do the same exercise with the women’s bracket and the NIT.  For the record, Maryland would probably win both.  I’ll stick with the goal of releasing the Ideal NBA and D-League within the next two weeks, so keep checking back, dear readers.




IN OTHER NEWS: It appears that the new Miami Dolphins logo will indeed be the one that leaked a few months back, with a few minor alterations.  Eyes are added to the new version, which is de-fin-itely a good thing.  Sport Change has already weighed in on this, so there’s not much else to say.  Get ready to see Mike Wallace with a horizontal swimming cetacean on his head!



1 comment
  1. 50/50 on play-in round predictions. The LaSalle Explorers and St. Mary’s Gaels are still alive, but unfortunately, we lost the Liberty Flames and *ouch* the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds. Moniker bracket is busting quickly! Let’s see what happens next.

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