clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Best NCAA Tournament Team Names - Spiders and Terriers and Peacocks, oh my!


I pride myself on strange things. One thing I enjoy is knowing the name of college sports teams. I used to say I knew all of the Division I basketball teams - that was never true, and it's less true now, since wacky teams keep moving up to DI. But I know a lot of them. When I meet someone new, in a class or wherever, if the school they went to gets mentioned, I almost reflexively say "Go [insert team name here]". Example:

Steve: Nice to meet you. Where are you from?

Other person: I'm originally from New York, but I moved to Virginia to go to school at Virginia Tech.


Other person: Are you from Virginia?

Steve: No, I'm just pretty weird.

NCAA tournament time is always a fun time for team names. I was of course deeply saddened that Coastal Carolina lost in the Big South Tournament. The Chanticleers is perhaps my favorite team name of all time. Adding insult to injury, UNC-Asheville wound up winning the tournament to get the Big South bid, as if we need another Bulldog in the tournament. There are WAY too many Bulldogs - there should be some sort of moratorium on Bulldogs.

Among some of my favorite team names that did get in:

The Richmond Spiders. How cool is that? The Spiders. So cool, so unique. The only arachnid based team name as far as I know. (There should definitely be a Scorpion, but I don't know of one. Anyone?) In the broader 'bug' category (though insects and arachnids are not the same thing) I can only think of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Sacramento State Hornets and Alabama State Hornets, though there are probably some other Hornets. Alabama State even made the 68 team field, but lost in the opening round and so did not make it to the 64 team portion.

The San Diego State Aztecs. A southern California school, so we're quite familiar with them, but they don't have much of a national profile, so there are probably some East Coast fans getting introduced to the Aztecs for the first time. I've always been intrigued by the 'ancient peoples' genre of team names. The Trojans and the Spartans are of course big time - but the Gaels of St. Marys is a nice team name as well. Don't get me started on Celtics, which is all wrong, but of course not an NCAA name. The Trojans have had a rough tournament, as both USC and Arkansas-Little Rock lost in the opening round, before making it to the 64 team field.

The UCSB Gauchos. Another SoCal school, but let's face it, Gauchos is a cool name.

The Old Dominion Monarchs. If the Southern California schools have a Meso-American feel to their names, several old Eastern colleges have decidedly old world names. Not just Kings, Monarchs. Very grandiose, ODU. Of course, there's also the...

George Mason Patriots. These two long established Virginia institutions seem to be re-enacting the American War of Independence: the Patriots and the Monarchs. Is it a coincidence that the Patriots are still alive in the tournament, while the Monarchs have been sent packing?

The Akron Zips. Such a cool name, but what does it mean? I really don't know.

Indiana State Sycamores. A team name familiar to many for one and only one reason - Larry Bird. It remains the only team I know of named for a tree (though Stanford does have a tree as it's mascot, which derives from Palo Alto).

The Texas San Antonio Road Runners. Do their fans go "Beep Beep" when they score a basket? Do they get their uniforms from the Acme company? Do their opponents try to drop anvils on them, only to have the giant sling shot backfire? So many questions. And while we're on birds, some other fine feathered teams are in this tournament, including the...

Long Island University Blackbirds. The Blackbirds! Are you kidding me? This is one of those new to DI teams, surely. I've heard of LIU, but had no idea they had a basketball team, let alone a winning one. But they must surely be the only Blackbirds in DI, right? And then there's the...

St. Peter's College Peacocks. Along with the Youngstown State Penguins and the Delaware Blue Hens, this is one of the least intimidating team names of all time. Birds of prey likes Eagles and Falcons, sure. But any other bird is a stretch, let's face it. I mean, the Ducks are not particularly frightening, but at least they're not ridiculous. But I will give the Peacocks credit for being very, very proud.

The biggest surprise in this tournament, by far, is that the field includes not one, but two teams called the Terriers. GO TERRIERS! Because I want to cheer for a little yappy dog team. Both Boston University and Wofford College made the tournament this season, and they are BOTH called the Terriers. What are the odds?

The problem is that most of these teams will be out of the tournament by tomorrow. We'll be down to a bunch of Bulldogs and Wildcats and Tigers. Blecch - so boring. Looks like I'm a Richmond Spider fan, at least through the weekend.