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March Madness gets started -- Go Blue Hens!

The NCAA tournament gets started in earnest today with 16 first round games. The two best things about the early games are the upsets, and the obscure mascot names.

The Los Angeles Clippers lost in Denver Monday, ending their 11 game winning streak. That loss just happened to come directly prior to an unusual dark period of four days off for the team, so we have that memory freshest in our minds during this down time unfortunately. If they had split their Sunday/Monday back to back in the other order, then we'd have a win to dwell instead of a loss. Such are the breaks.

But even if we don't get to see another Clippers game until Saturday, we do have a very serious distraction to keep us occupied today and tomorrow: the NCAA tournament.

I don't have a lot to say about the tournament this season. I simply haven't paid a lot of attention to the NCAA. If you haven't done so already, you should definitely read citizen flybyknight's guide to NBA prospects playing in the tournament since so many of these players will be hoping to make an impact in the NBA next season.

In general, although it's too late for your brackets, you should always beware of the 12 seeds. Over time, 12's have more or less split their games against the 5 seeds, despite the fact that the 5s should be dominating that matchup. And the beauty of the 12 seed is that they actually have the easiest path to the Sweet 16 of all the underdogs, since the toughest seed they see the first weekend is the 4. So always beware the 12.

My personal obsession during the tournament, especially the first weekend, is team mascot names -- the early games always offer some wonderfully obscure ones, and today does not disappoint in that department.

In the sub-category of unusual dog mascots, we have the Albany Great Danes (intimidating!) and the Wofford Terriers (not so intimidating). (Sadly, the Salukis of Southern Illinois are not in the tournament this season.) Perhaps the least intimidating mascot of all time is in the tournament this season: the Delaware Blue Hens! Oregon is playing today also, but Blue Hens are definitely less intimidating than Ducks, right? I mean, it's a Hen. Shouldn't they limit that to the women's teams at Delaware? Why aren't they at least the Blue Roosters? (Check back tomorrow for my favorite poultry based mascot.)

Out on the plains we have the misnamed Colorado Buffaloes as well as the taxonomically correct North Dakota State Bison, which is what the Buffaloes think they are. And yes, it's Bison, not Bisons -- one of the few teams this season that does not end in S (non color division, i.e. the Harvard Crimson, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orangemen, etc. don't count).

And the list goes on. Playing Thursday, we have a team named for a tree (the Manhattan Jaspers) and one of the least imaginative names of all time, the American University Eagles (the American Eagles, really?) But we also have perhaps the strangest, most unusual university mascot of all time: the Billikens of St. Louis. What is a Billiken, you ask? I've read the story a dozen times, and I'm still not really sure. It's some sort of collectible figurine that was popular in St. Louis over 100 years ago -- like a kewpie doll or a troll, as far as I can tell. As if UC Merced decided in 2005 to call themselves the Bratz or something.

So go Billikins, good luck against the Wolfpack -- hey lookie there, another team that doesn't end in S. But watch out -- NC State is a 12 seed!

This is your open thread for tournament action.