Mascot Madness: Top 10 Mascots of the 2023 NCAA Tournament

March has arrived and thus begins a new conundrum for the non-sports fan.

Of course, everyone thinks of the NCAA Tournament bracket through the eyes of a true sports fan. This is the month of celebration for the die-hard fan who watched months of collegiate basketball.

They’ve looked up random schools they’ve never heard of before and written down statistics that they still don’t understand. All for the purpose of attaining the perfect bracket! Warren Buffett is still doing the million-dollar challenge that is totally attainable right?

The basketball coverage that you will find online, that’s who they are catering to. It is for sports fans by sports fans. Nobody thinks about the non-sports fan, though!

See, March Madness is universal. Everyone gets swept up in the fever. As a sports fan, you are going to have random coworkers and peers asking for your tips for their office bracket challenge. I’ve been getting these questions since high school, and I’ve never helped a single person with my terrible picks.

So, if you fall in that category and you’re worrying about looking like an outsider this season, don’t worry. I got you covered. Nobody really knows who is going to win in this tournament, no matter how much they convince you to fork over your hard-earned cash for their projections. The true way to pick your bracket this year is through the mascots.

That’s right, folks. The mascots. Everyone’s favorite pal on the side of the court cheering on their side. Who doesn’t love a good mascot? Of course, not everyone is a good one. Not all mascots are created equal, and through a sea of funky-looking Wildcats, there are some true gems.

As a way to help you look like the smartest in the room this March Madness season, here are the top 10 mascots in this year’s men’s basketball NCAA Tournament.

Smokey (Tennessee)

David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start this off right with a good boy. There are a lot of bulldogs out there, including one later on in this list, so it’s nice to see a different breed here from Tennessee.

Billy Bluejay (Creighton)

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to start a string of bird mascots. I like to think that Billy is wearing a pair of swim goggles like he’s about to tell me that it is Wednesday, my dudes.

Herky (Iowa)

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

I didn’t want to put Herky too high on this list for fear of cries of favoritism, but come on! He’s so tough looking!

Furman Paladin

Look at this Paladin! There could be a theme brewing on this list here, but talk about points for uniqueness in a world where there’s a lot of the same in terms of college mascots.

Big Jay (Kansas)

Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Of course, I have to include the classic here. Big Jay is one of the first mascots people think of when it comes to college basketball and for good reason.

Victor E. Viking (Northern Kentucky)

Albert Cesare / The Enquirer

You know, when I see this mascot, I just think of WWE legend Triple H. I picture Mr. Viking entering the arena to Motörhead before proceeding to spit water into the air.

Big Red (Arkansas)

Gunnar Rathbun-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know why I find this cartoony hog to be so amazing, but this is a truly elite mascot. He looks so fired up like he’s about to attack someone on the court. Love the intensity! Good for Arkansas.

Sparty (Michigan State)

Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press / USA TODAY NETWORK

Just like with Big Jay, you absolutely cannot make a top mascot list without Sparty. He looks like he can take literally anyone in a fight, so you better think twice before committing a hard foul against Michigan State.

Gideon (St. Mary's)

Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Mary’s Gaels? More like the St. Mary’s Chads!

Griff II (Drake)

Margaret Kispert/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Okay, I am cheating a bit on this one, but it’s my list so I don’t care. While Drake has a regular mascot named Spike, and it certainly is just okay, they also have a live mascot. His name is Griff II and he is a VERY good boy. Just look at him! How can you not pull for Drake to win the whole thing now?!

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire