By Caitlin Flynn
For college basketball fans, the three-day break before the Sweet 16 begins play could either be a welcomed respite from March Madness, a chance to regain the energy needed to go on a four-day binge, or has been a version of sports hell, having to wait more than 72 hours to watch the NCAA Tournament.
Whatever group you belong to, the wait will end Thursday night as the first four games of Sweet 16 matchups take place, with another four Friday night. As we've done throughout the tournament, we're picking winners of each round, but not based on players, coaches or talent matchups. No, we're basing advancement on a battle between the team's mascots.
In the second round, our picks went 12-4, which I'm sure almost everyone who filled out a bracket would take just about now, as "busted bracket" has been the most common used term during the tournament.
Here are Thursday's mascot breakdowns. Check back for Friday's matchups and for the Elite Eight, Final Four and championship game analysis in the coming days. As always, let us know your picks in the comments section.
No. 7 Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Winner: Fighting Irish
Angry little leprechauns are intimidating to begin with, but wielding Sillelaghs, those Fightin' Irishmen can overpower every Shocker. Wheat is not known for its defensive abilities, and proven by the Shockers lack of defensive pressure this tournament, those treacherous little Irishmen will overtake every stalk of wheat this side (and the other side) of the Mississippi.
No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers
Badgers are fierce animals that will protect themselves at all costs. They are even capable of fighting off much larger animals (typically coyotes and wolves), but in March they have specialized in defeating ducks and bright, teal, angry roosters. Add Tar Heels to the list of victims.
No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats
The Mountaineers have a rifle, but only one bullet. Now, that's pressure. A smothering press defense has caused 40 turnovers in the last two games for West Virginia, but the Wildcats come at you from all sides. Those rifles have to be reloaded eventually, which is when the Wildcats will attack.
No. 6 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 2 Arizona Wildcats
For the second straight game, a human hunter will try and take out a Wildcat. The Musketeers do not have the same defensive expertise as the Mountaineers, however, and while Wildcats from Arizona are not as formidable of opponents as Wildcats from Kentucky, this battle of man vs. beast ends with the same conclusion. Wildcats will be victorious.