The NCAA tournament is set to tip off, and we all know which teams are the cream of the crop. But which mascots bring the most game to the court? Check out our ranking of all 68 in the field — lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Play our Bracket Challenge game! | Print out your own bracket | More tourney coverage
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois gave up its controversial "Chief Illiniwek" mascot in 2007 after some heavy objections but has yet to find a replacement. For that we have no choice but to put the Fighting Illini at the bottom of the list. That's a very nice capital I though. Get more info on Illinois | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Though it briefly had live wolverine mascots in the 1920s and again in the late 1930s (it was deemed too dangerous to the animals and their handlers to continue), Michigan has had a proud tradition since of not having a mascot.
The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojan
We'll forgive a little bit because of the likely athletic budget disparity between the surprise Sun Belt Conference champions and some of the other college basketball powers, but this guy looks like an obsessed fan at a high school game. Get more info on UALR | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Yeesh. One thing's for sure — you certainly won't miss this guy. Thunderbird, the in-your-face mascot for the St. John's Red Storm, is nothing if not flashy. Get more info on St. John's | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Let the hate mail begin! While plenty of our fine readers surely will disagree, we just aren't inspired by a guy in a green suit. Notre Dame's Leprechaun is iconic and fits the Fighting Irish name perfectly, but he's not scoring any points in the creativity department.
Montezuma the Aztec Warrior
San Diego State's costumed human looks more like an "American Gladiators" contestant.
What the heck is this? Restricted by the limitations of the nickname Sycamores, Indiana State took a shot with this furry blue creation and airballed it. They'd be better served making Larry Bird their mascot. Get more info on Indiana State | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Zippy the Kangaroo
Well, this is awkward. Another school perhaps hampered by its odd nickname, the Akron Zips went with Zippy the Kangaroo to lead their cheers. Let's hope their jump shots are more on the money. Get more info on Akron | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
The Kentucky Wildcat
Someone get this cat some food. Kentucky's skinny, mangy Wildcat mascot hasn't received an upgrade since its inception in the late 1970s. Maybe it's time to do that. To be fair, Kentucky has a more modern-looking model as well, though we can't reward indecisiveness too much.
A solid traditional look here with the plain "M" sewn on the shirt. But we're a little thrown off by the face of the Morehead State Eagles' mascot. The crossed eyes and gaping mouth make Beaker look like he had a few too many while celebrating the team's Ohio Valley Conference title. Get more info on Morehead State | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Willie the Wildcat
Well ... it's a great head. But where's the rest of it? Kansas State's version of the wildcat starts off strong before becoming a big disappointment.
The Clemson Tiger
Our first of many Tiger offerings to come. Clemson's low-rent cat with the oversized sneakers doesn't quite cut it. Get more info on Clemson | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Jack the Bulldog
With far more inventive bulldog mascots on the list, the Georgetown Hoyas' all-gray Jack certainly loses its luster ... though we do like the toe detail.
Jonathan the Husky
Expressionless face and a silly name (a tribute to Connecticut's first governor) hamper the UConn Huskies' beloved showman. We understand he kind of has to be all white, but is that really doing it for anyone?
It seems the manufacturer forgot to include eyes on BYU's scruffy Cougar mascot. Another negative: the gloved human fingers sticking out below the brown sleeves. Sort of hurts the illusion.
Truman the Tiger
Looking like a bad ripoff of Tony the Tiger, Missouri's Truman is a little lacking in creativity and flair. Bonus points, though, for the homage to former U.S. president and Missouri native Harry Truman in the name.
We might appreciate Spike more if not for the laundry list of "Bulldog" teams in the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga's effort looks more like a stone ogre with flabby arm skin than a rough-and-tumble canine.
Will D. Cat
Why can't anyone seem to get the wildcat quite right? Villanova's representative is probably the best of the bunch. But he looks a little too feral to warm up to. Get more info on Villanova | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Richmond could have really done something great with a nickname like Spiders, so it's unfortunate that we just get a dude in a cape and bizarre head covering. Get more info on Richmond | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Rodney the Ram
The VCU Rams' main man Rodney seems a little too cartoonish to make it to the top of the heap.
Harry the Husky
An interesting concoction here from Washington, though we're not sure we could identify it as a husky if we didn't know. Get more info on Washington | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
It's a pretty dead-on look for a bison, but Bucknell's big-headed Bucky is a bit hard on the eyes for our tastes. Get more info on Bucknell | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Vanderbilt's eponymous commodore does the job just fine ... he just doesn't wow us.
Everything's going just fine for ole Wilbur, right up until you see that hat. Is it raining in Arizona? We prefer this to Kentucky's Wildcat, but there's still room for improvement. Get more info on Arizona | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Louisville's Cardinal Bird sports a refined, classic look that's highlighted by the great headdress. The shaggy, all-red body suit is a little unsightly and lazy.
So many bulldog mascots in collegeland make it tough to distinguish, but UNC-Asheville delivered with an especially fierce and hungry adaptation.
Why isn't this aesthetically challenged tiger at the bottom of the list? It's a part of history! The Princeton Tiger was among the pioneering mascots in collegiate athletics, dating back to the 1800's, and has been relatively unchanged since. You have to tip your hat to longevity. Get more info on Princeton | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
We're not quite sure what to make of the Utah St. Aggies' dark blue bull. Nose ring. Hairy shoulders. Sinister smirk. Somehow, it kind of works. Get more info on Utah State | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
The mascot of the St. Peter's Peacocks gets points for the distinctive beak and vibrant color scheme, but it is marked down for a slightly ragged look and those oh-so-disturbing flat eyes. Get more info on St. Peter's | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Roc the Panther
Pitt's imposing panther mascot is one of the more effective efforts from the feline genre. Simple, yet effective. Get more info on Pittsburgh | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
The Marquette Golden Eagles went the straightforward route with their namesake mascot. Takes more than that to top this list.
This bear just looks happy to be doing its job, doesn't it? Northern Colorado's Klawz may have the look of a raggedy teddy bear, but the obvious charm overcomes it. Get more info on Northern Colorado | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
He's similar to San Diego State's Aztec mascot, but Tommy Trojan gains a significant edge thanks to his notoriety. However, he's much more popular as a football mascot. Get more info on USC | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
A solid bear offering from the folks at Belmont. There's nothing flashy about the Bruins' mascot, but it does the job.
Why did we toss Brutus — one of college's most famous mascots — in the middle of the list? Because it seems you either love this Ohio State Buckeye or think he's a total nut.
The Nittany Lion
Penn State's iconic lion mascot is suited up and ready to play. Not much in the way of frills, but in a tournament full of bears, tigers and wildcats, the lion somehow stands out. Get more info on Penn State | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
You'll see live bulldogs on this list, but Texas A&M is truly unique. The Aggies chose to throw us a curveball with their mascot and give us this adorable canine replete with school pride. Get more info on Texas A&M | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
It's tough to impress with the been-there-done-that bear mascot, but Summit League champion Oakland put an attractive creature together here to represent the Golden Grizzlies. Get more info on Oakland | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
If you haven't had enough bears and cats on this list, here's the best of both worlds. A fine offering from Cincinnati with an eye-catching head.
How about a live terrier to add to the dog diversity? And it's nice to see the real-life pup, Blitz II, living in harmony with her costumed buddy. Well done, Wofford. Get more info on Wofford | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Otto the Orange
Syracuse's smiling orange ball is a little ridiculous at first glance, but the more we look at it, the more we appreciate it.
UCLA's cuddly bear may need to hit the gym (look at that belly sticking out), but it's still a classic look for a classic team. Get more info on UCLA | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
We know the Boston Terriers' Rhett can skate, but we'll soon find out how he does on the basketball court. Get more info on Boston | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Old Dominion's lion is our second king of the jungle on the list. And it has a mighty high opinion of itself with that royal crown on its head. Overall, an inspired costume from the Monarchs. Get more info on Old Dominion | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
With one of our favorite small-school mascots in the tourney, the Long Island Blackbirds have given us one sharp avian fan.
We wonder what that facial expression is supposed to mean, but Memphis' Pouncer is still the definitive tiger mascot in the field thanks to his getup and tiny hat.
Texas-San Antonio scores huge creativity points with Rowdy the roadrunner. Looks like the cousin of the Phillie Phanatic. Get more info on UTSA | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Extra points for Tennessee for the creative dog breed it found to represent its namesake Volunteers. The bluetick coonhound (both costumed, at left, and real) mascots are a nice touch. And you can't beat that jacket. Get more info on Tennessee | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
The Alabama State Hornet
Another great one from the small schools, Alabama State's hornet mascot is well-executed. Now we'll see if the team can make it to the main draw. Get more info on Alabama State | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
If you had to pick one mascot to have your back, it just might be UC-Santa Barbara's sinister-looking Gaucho. Get more info on UCSB | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
We've been hard on the obviously human mascots so far. This is the exception. Something about that outfit just gets us fired up for basketball.
Can you tell we take a liking to Old West-looking dudes with outrageous mustaches? The UNLV Runnin' Rebels' namesake character is not someone you'd want to take on in a bar fight.
Yes, it's another bulldog mascot, but Georgia's costumed version gets extra points for the imposing, oversized head and shoulders. Were this a football mascot contest, Georgia's live bulldog would be ranked much higher, but we will give the school some hoops credit for Uga IV attending the Final Four in 1983 — Georgia's only appearance in the national semifinals. Get more info on Georgia | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Chief Osceola and Renegade
We're guessing they won't let Florida State's Chief Osceola bring his horse, Renegade, into the arena. But it's still a nifty way to show Seminoles pride.
The tourney's only dragon mascot is a huge hit with this committee. The UAB Blazers will be playing in style with Blaze roaming the sidelines. Get more info on UAB | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
A nice twist on the "patriotic American" mascot theme: face paint! George Mason's Patriot is one inspiring blend of green and yellow. Get more info on George Mason | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
Bevo is much more jaw-dropping, but Texas understandably couldn't run a live longhorn steer out onto a basketball court. The costumed version (named Hook 'Em) is a fine facsimile and serves as a fitting tribute to his flesh-and-blood peer.
All for one and one for all! The Xavier Musketeers deliver with D'Artagnan, the decked out swashbuckler with the flowing mustache. As for Xavier's other mascot, the Blue Blob, well ... judge for yourself.
A relative of UC-Santa Barbara's Gaucho, the Hampton Pirate is as detailed and imposing as they come. Well done by another small school. Get more info on Hampton | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
The oddly named Tar Heels of North Carolina thankfully gave us this lovable bighorn ram as their mascot instead of a mascot with a sullied heel. We're not sure what Rameses is doing so far outside his natural habitat, though.
Any school with a truly unique mascot has a distinct advantage on this list. Throw in a costume that fits the bill, and you're a shoo-in for the top 20. Hooter, the Temple Owl, doesn't mess around.
Blue II and Hink
We mentioned earlier that we don't like indecisiveness, but both of these mascots are solid on their own accord. A living animal mascot (Blue II) is always a big hit, and Butler's costumed version (Hink) is the most detailed and dynamic bulldog we'll see in this tournament, right down to the jowls. Get more info on Butler | Play Bracket Challenge! | Print your bracket | Tourney preview
The Big Ten does it again. How can you not love Purdue Pete with those wide eyes and that pouty face? One of the best out there.
Albert E. Gator
In a sea of cats, dogs and bears, the Florida Gators' long-snouted, green-and-orange mascot certainly stands out. Just the right amount of detail and school spirit, right down to the human-sized Gators hat on its head.
With one of the best (and most recognizable) masks in Mascotland, Duke's Blue Devil does the trick for us. It's not easy to pull off the cape tastefully, but somehow this horned guy makes it work.
Be honest: You didn't need to look twice to know this one. You can't go wrong with iconic Big Jay, the sharp-looking bird mascot for the Kansas Jayhawks, clad in red, white and blue.
Wisconsin's trademark badger mascot is as good as it gets. Bucky is one of the poster boys for the Big Ten's strong lineup of cheering critters. From the old-school, candy-striped shirt to the sleek badger head, we're big fans.
Now this is how you do a mascot from the ancient world. Michigan State's Sparty is the total package. Iconic, imposing and good to look at.