Into The March Madness Wild: Top Ten Mascots in College Basketball

Written By Nathan Frederick on March 2, 2022
Top ten college basketball mascots include Villanova and Penn State

I have a confession to make.

I might be a little biased. Maybe a lot actually.

But as a Pennsylvania resident, if I’m ranking college basketball’s best mascots, you better believe some PA teams are going to make the cut. Much like a New Yorker is guaranteed to have a big fat orangeman land on the list.

So with Selection Sunday and the NCAA Basketball Tournament just a few weeks away, let’s rank college basketball’s best mascots to get you ready for March Madness.

10. The North Carolina Tarheel (Rameses)

Last Tournament Appearance: 2021

Current record/AP ranking: 22-8, unranked

Pros: UNC gets bonus points for having both a life-size Ram mascot and also a live ram with blue-painted horns at outdoor events.

Cons: I’m not sure how a Ram relates to Tarheels at all. Maybe it works on a road paving crew?

9. St. Joe’s Hawk

Last Tournament Appearance: 2016

Current record/AP ranking: 10-17, unranked

This mascot makes the list due to its sheer tenacity. At basketball games, the Hawk must flap its wings non-stop.

Pros: Stamina. And thanks to all that arm waving, under that costume are certainly some jacked delts that would make the cast of Jersey Shore jealous.

Cons: “The Hawk will Never Die” brings about the weariness of immortality…and an eternity of watching St. Joe’s basketball.

8. The Kansas Jayhawk

Last Tournament Appearance: 2021

Current record/AP ranking: 23-5, No. 6

We’d have back-to-back birds here, but the Jayhawk is only imaginary, a tradition-rich blend of Blue Jays and Hawks that history used to describe settlers in Kansas.

Pros: According to Wikipedia, Kansas tradition specifies that the mascot be at least 6-1, giving Big Jay a chance to be a backup 2 guard if the team ever needed him.

Cons: The St. Joe Hawk would probably be favored in a bird battle thanks to all that arm-flapping.

7. The Stony Brook Seawolves

Last Tournament Appearance: 2016

Current record/AP ranking: 17-13, unranked

Much like March Madness, our mascot list needs at least one Cinderella. Wolfie is it.

Pros: Youth. Stony Brook previously competed as the Soundmen, Baymen, Warriors and Patriots before adopting the Seawolves mascot in 1994 when the team moved to the Division I level. That makes its mascot much younger than most others in college basketball.

Cons: Actual sea wolves are only found in Canada, so the geographical tie to New York is a cross-continent stretch.

6. Penn State’s Nittany Lion

Last Tournament Appearance: 2011

Current record/AP ranking: 12-14, unranked

Another PA team makes the list based solely on the simplicity of its costume. I’m pretty sure Penn State’s mascot was made in a high school Home Ec class.

Pros: Fashion versatility. Because the Nittany Lion isn’t a bulky costume, the mascot can add other layers for performance benefits. A friend that went there remembers a Napolean Dynamite outfit complete with dance moves and a Saturday Night Fever routine as well. The ever-present scarf also helps the Nittany Lion feel more distinguished than some other feral mascots.

Cons: There are likely footie pajamas in your closet somewhere with more elaborate designs than the Nittany Lion costume.

5. Ohio State’s Buckeyes (Brutus)

Last Tournament Appearance: 2021

Current record/AP ranking: 18-8, No. 23

I’m awarding bonus points again here for a college that could elevate a plant byproduct to full-blown mascot status.

Pros: Physical fitness. Brutus Buckeye is known to do a push up for every point Ohio State scores in the team’s football games. He’d make a formidable arm-wrestling opponent for the St. Joe’s Hawk.

Cons: Actual Buckeyes can be poisonous in real life. We can’t rate a mascot that might actually kill someone that high.

4. The Oregon Duck

Last Tournament Appearance: 2021

Current record/AP ranking: 18-11, unranked

Oregon may have one of the strangest courts in college basketball, but the team’s mascot seems unassuming and likable.

Pros: Oregon has a special license agreement with Disney that allows its Duck to be based on Donald. Oh boy!

Cons: As far as intimidation goes, the Duck doesn’t inspire any fear in its opponents. Maybe that’s why the school experimented with a spandex-suited mascot that students nicknamed Duck Vader and Roboduck before it disappeared.

3. Villanova’s Wildcat

Last Tournament Appearance: 2021

Current record/AP ranking: 21-7, No. 11

Nova’s Will D. Cat mascot has eyes that are so creepy that I’m afraid not to include him. An omission might lead to nightmares and a therapist couch.

Pros: Strength in numbers. In addition to Villanova, basketball blue-blood Kentucky and Kansas State also share the Wildcat moniker.

Cons: For a while, Villanova used to employ actual wildcats as a mascot, but the animals’ behavior at sporting events became so erratic that the college opted instead for undergrads in costume. Personally, I think the threat of a wildcat attack would only add to the in-game excitement.

2. Duke’s Blue Devil

Last Tournament Appearance: 2019

Current record/AP ranking: 25-4, No. 4

Maybe this mascot isn’t all that exciting, but it’s hard to think of any others that are more synonymous with college basketball.

Pros: The Blue Devils mascot actually has a historical link to skilled French soldiers from Word War I.

Cons: The Devil is exactly how many other fan bases view Duke and its program.

1.  Oklahoma State’s Cowboys and Pistol Pete

Last Tournament Appearance: 2021

Current record/AP ranking: 13-15, unranked

Listen, if there’s a mascot strutting around that is brazenly brandishing a firearm, I’m not voting anyone else No. 1.

Pros: I think a 23 and Me test would reveal that Pistol Pete is somehow related to Yosemite Sam. And he gets bonus points for having the same nickname as the highest-scoring college player of all-time.

Cons: Pete might give off “Stranger Danger” vibes if you have kids around. I’m thinking an unshaven man with steely eyes and a six shooter might frighten your offspring en route to the concession stand.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

Nathan Frederick Avatar
Written by
Nathan Frederick

Nathan Frederick is an award-winning writer with more than 1,000 published bylines and two decades of journalism experience. His work has won awards from the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Journalists, the Keystone Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has also authored three books, one of which debuted as an Amazon No. 1 New Release.

View all posts by Nathan Frederick
Privacy Policy