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On and off the court, know thy enemy

Eight men's college basketball teams are in Tampa this weekend for the NCAA tournament — and their fans are flooding in too. Here's a guide that will help you tell a Husky from a Bulldog and a Tiger from a Wildcat.

UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT, Storrs, Conn.

Huskies

Mascot: Jonathan the Husky. The first Jonathan arrived on campus as a puppy in 1935, attended a few basketball games, then was hit and killed by a car.

Fans hate it when people . . . Ask them how things are going in Alaska.

How to recognize them: This is a sweat shirts-and-sneakers crowd. They wear blue and white and tend to squint because they haven't seen the sun since September.

Words they live by: "We got the beat!" They're not paying homage to the Go-Go's but to center Hasheem Thabeet.

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Hartford.

UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO, San Diego

Toreros

Mascot: Diego Torero. Once called the Pioneers, the school adopted the Spanish word for bullfighters in 1961. One blogger said their old logo looks like the Duke Blue Devil busing tables in a Mexican restaurant.

Fans hate it when people . . . Confuse them with San Diego State or South Dakota.

How to recognize them: They'll be sporting navy blue, sky blue and white, wearing flip-flops and winter tans.

Words they live by: "San Di Eeeeego! Nothing too original or creative. This is all new to us," says Toreros fan Chris Morales.

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Their home arena, the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Students call it the "Slim Gym."

DRAKE UNIVERSITY, Des Moines, Iowa

Bulldogs

Mascot: Spike, a guy in a bulldog suit. The live dog, Riggs, is a 68-pounder who won last year's bulldog beauty pageant.

Fans hate it when people . . . Call them ducks.

How to recognize them: They'll paint their pasty faces blue and wear blue and white. Look out for the fan who thinks he's the Burger King.

Words they live by: "Believe!" They've been repeating that prayer all season.

Secretly embarrassed about . . . The fact that their mascot has a wellness video on YouTube. In fact, he has three.

SIENA COLLEGE, Loudonville, N.Y.

Saints

Mascot: Bernie the St. Bernard. The team dropped the nickname Indians in 1988 and adopted Saints to honor their Catholic origins.

Fans hate it when people . . . Spell the school name wrong. It's a college, not a crayon color or a car.

How to recognize them: Many will have gray hair and ticket stubs to Saints games from before they were Saints. They'll all be wearing green and gold.

Words they live by: "When the Saints go marching in . . ."

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Being the fickle faithful. Fans booed the Saints as recently as last month – but stormed the court when Siena won the MAAC title and an NCAA berth.

CLEMSON UNIVERSITY, Clemson, S.C.

Tigers

Mascot: The Tiger and his nephew, the Tiger Cub, who wears number ½.

Fans hate it when people . . . Think they only care about football. They've just been waiting for something to cheer about on the court.

How to recognize them: Orange. Everywhere. Some fans go for the whole ensemble, others opt for a "subtle" paw print painted on their cheek. Look for a convoy of RVs — at least that's how they ride in football season.

Words they live by: "Are you down with OPP?" This refers to coach Oliver Purnell, spoofing a song by Naughty by Nature. You'll have to Google the original song — because we're not printing it here.

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Their NCAA record for the longest losing streak at any venue. The Tigers pushed North Carolina to double overtime before losing for the 53rd time in Chapel Hill in February.

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, Villanova, Pa.

Wildcats

Mascot: Will D. Cat, the wildcat. From 1930 until 1950, the university kept a live wildcat in a cage. But Count Villan got too feisty for its handlers — and too cold at football games. In 1950, a student started wearing a wildcat costume.

Fans hate it when people . . . Bash their team with obvious rants. V-sucks is so last year.

How to recognize them: Look for big V's, blue and white face paint and wild wigs.

Words they live by: " 'Nova Nation . . . 'Nova Nation . . . 'Nova Nation!"

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Their football team (but they don't mean you, Howie Long).

WESTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY, Bowling Green, Ky.

Hilltoppers

Mascot: Big Red, which looks like a cross between a strawberry and a Muppet. You may have seen him — her? it? — in ESPN commercials.

Fans hate it when people . . . Ask about Big Red. A while back, an ESPN reporter came to town. "The first thing he asked me was, 'What the (bleep) is your mascot?' " says David Harten, sports editor of the student paper.

How to recognize them: They'll be in red and white, chanting "T-O-P-S!" in a drawl.

Words they live by: Says Harten: " 'All y'all headed down to the game?' Everything is down, even when you're going north."

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Big Red.

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY, Nashville

Commodores

Mascot: Mr. C, named for railroad tycoon and university founder Cornelius "the Commodore" Vanderbilt.

Fans hate it when people . . . Ask them to sing any song by the Commodores.

How to recognize them: The Memorial Maniacs (named for Vandy's gym) tend to wear black T-shirts and gold fright wigs. Everywhere.

How to recognize them: "Dynamite, dynamite, when Vandy starts to fight!" There's no accounting for fight songs.

Secretly embarrassed about . . . Losing to archrival Tennessee by 20 points in January.

On and off the court, know thy enemy 03/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2008 8:19pm]

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