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True stars of March Madness: Ranking top seeds’ mascots

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Head sports editor

MARCH 16, 2023

The sports fans, the casual enjoyers and even the absolutely-not-over-my-dead-body spectators all seem to come together in March. And it’s not even the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals. This is, in fact, a much, much weirder event, in which an entire nation follows — to varying extents — college students who also happen to play sports.

And so, without further ado, here is a ranking of the men’s NCAA tournament top seeds’ mascots.

4. Purdue Pete, Purdue

Why does he look like that? He’s by far the most unsettling of the four, hence squarely occupying the last place in this definitely objective ranking.

One might feel bad for the children attending Purdue’s sporting events, because this mascot would surely give them nightmares. His only redeeming feature is the cool hat … and maybe the hammer.

His eyes look like he’s seen the worst this world has to offer — Indiana? Either way, though, absolute rock bottom of the rankings. If there was a fifth spot, he would be in it. Probably any of them are better than him.

It’s probably not his fault. These are the cards that he’s been dealt. But, honestly, they’re some pretty bad cards. So, in the meantime, he will stay in last place.

3. Shasta (and Sasha?), Houston 

Also scary, but less scary than Purdue Pete. There is certainly a good amount of fear in her eyes, but maybe it’ll go away when the sports editors’ pick comes true and Houston takes home the win.

She’s also often accompanied by Sasha  — not sure if that’s a fellow cougar of romantic interest or a sibling. But, well, anything can happen in the land of the free, I guess.

Allegedly, Shasta got into a fight with the Oregon Duck in 2007 (what’s referred to on Wikipedia as “The Oregon Duck incident”). She gets bonus points for that. Major kudos, that Duck needs to get taken down a peg or two occasionally. Also extra bonus points for being a woman, that is some important representation.

2. Big Jay and Baby Jay, Kansas

On the opposite spectrum of the previous two mascots (read: too scary), stands Big Jay. Big Jay is … fine? Honestly, nothing special.

With pretty blue eyes, Big Jay is so far definitely the cutest of the mascots listed in this article. That being said, cute only takes you so far. If he was ever in a physical altercation of sorts with one of the other mascots — and we know Houston’s Shasta is prone to a fight or two — he would not fare well.

Big Jay looks like he would walk you home at the end of the day and hold the door open for you (and let you go first). In short, he looks like a true gentleman.

But we mustn’t forget Baby Jay, Big Jay’s adorable, smaller sidekick. Together, the two are quite the power duo — but still not enough to give them the No. 1 slot in this ranking.

1. Big Al, Alabama 

And, finally: the big reveal. The number one spot goes to Big Al, undoubtedly the friendliest-looking — but funky enough to be cool — of the four. He also has an original name, because who doesn’t love a good pun?

His only downfall — perhaps his biggest weapon, but also his kryptonite — is his trunk. While it would certainly aid him in a fight, it looks like an absolute nuisance to carry, and might also drag him down. Committing to a “who would beat whom in a fight” scenario, which isn’t uncommon for bracket selectors, the trunk could go either way.

But even with the number one spot in the rankings, Big Al doesn’t earn over the — or, at least my — pick for the tournament winner.

Nevertheless, Big Al will reign atop the mascot rankings, and maybe, just maybe, this will give Alabama the boost it really doesn’t need (for what it’s worth, I’m predicting Alabama out in the Final Four).

Contact Maria Kholodova at  or on Twitter


MARCH 16, 2023