Data Visualizations
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2015 NCAA Tournament: Humans, Cats, and Bears, Oh My!

If I asked you to predict a winner between two teams, how would you come to your conclusion? You’d probably start by comparing each team’s shooting percentage, regular season record, or who might have the better defense on paper. What if I told you that there was a more fun way to predict a winner of the game based on team mascots? Lo and behold, I’ve done just that – compiling data on team mascot wins in the Men’s NCAA Championship game from 1939 to 2014 – and my results are below. Read on to find out which team you should bet on to win it all!


Find the classification of each team below.

Aquatic Animal: Maryland, Jacksonville, Florida, CCNY

Bears: Baylor, UCLA, California

Birds: Louisville, Kansas, Marquette, Utah, Stanford, Oregon, Seattle, Iowa

Cats: Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Houston, Memphis, Kansas State, NYU, Washington State

Dogs: Georgetown, North Carolina State, Connecticut, Loyola (III.), Butler

Fantasy Creatures: Syracuse, Duke, Ohio State, St. John’s, Dartmouth, Indiana State, Bradley

Humans: San Francisco, Indiana, UTEP, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Michigan State, La Salle, Holy Cross, Wyoming, Illinois, Seton Hall, Florida State, Purdue, Dayton, West Virginia

Misc. Animals: North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati


The largest concentration of team mascots can be found in the human class (15), with cats falling into second (9) and birds rounding out the top three with (8). Let’s take a look at how these groups measure up against one another when comparing the history of the NCAA Championship game.


Game history


It’s interesting to note that every class has managed to win at least once. The human class, with 26 appearances, has the most of any group. However, you’ll notice that the aquatic animals can certainly handle business, as they’ve won four titles out of the six appearances they’ve made in the NCAA championship game. The humans still hold the highest percentage of wins vs. total NCAA titles at 21.05%, or 16 wins out of all 76 games.


Now, let’s see what history tells us about the class-by-class matchup results since the first championship game in 1939. The red X’s indicate a matchup that hasn’t occurred yet.


All Championship Matchups



I’ve also included the year-by-year matchups with winners and losers below. As you can see, the bears dominated from the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. All 10 of those victories were put together by the UCLA Bruins. With 11 NCAA Championship titles in all, the Bruins are in a class of their own. Kentucky, a close second with 8 total wins, will have a chance to close the gap if they win their semi-final matchup against Wisconsin this year.


Year by Year


It’s important to keep in mind that this hypothesis doesn’t apply to the Final Four; remember, we are only using the Big Dance as our model. Let’s consider all the different outcomes based on which teams might win this Saturday and see what possibilities await us.

On one side of the bracket, we have Kentucky (cat) vs. Wisconsin (misc. animal), while the other side has Michigan State (human) vs. Duke (fantasy creature). Now that we know the class of the remaining four team mascots, it’s time to figure out who wins it all.


Should Kentucky beat Wisconsin on Saturday and face Michigan State, the Spartans would statistically be favored to win the game in terms of our study. However, if Kentucky plays against Duke, the Wildcats are favored, as cats hold a 2-1 record against fantasy creatures.

If the Badgers are able to defeat Kentucky and face Duke in the finals, Wisconsin becomes a clear favorite to win the big game, as miscellaneous animals hold a 3-1 record against the fantasy class. The same couldn’t be said if they draw Michigan State, however, as humans hold a slight 4-3 advantage over miscellaneous animals.

So what does all of this mean? If Michigan State manages to come out of their bracket, you’ll want to put your money on the Spartans, regardless of who they play. If Duke emerges from that bracket, you’ll want to bet on either Kentucky or Wisconsin. You read it here first, folks. Sorry, Blue Devils faithful. Your chances look a bit bleak to add your fifth title.

Food for thought:

While both the Kentucky and Duke programs are no strangers to being tournament champions, it’s been a number of years for Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Badgers haven’t had a title since 1941, and the Spartans last championship was back in 2000.


Thanks for taking the time to read this short study. Be sure to let us know what you think, and who you are picking to win the tournament! Feel free to reach out to me at if you have any questions.


Brought to you by Best Tickets.

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Comments (1)

  1. Patricia Carter - Reply

    May 22, 2015 at 11:22 am

    2015 NCAA Tournament is going to be a huge fun for fans all around the globe. In 2014 Dogs are the winner from the cats, Lets see what happens this time.

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