Welcome back to our rankings of every team name in Division I college basketball. If you missed PART 1 on Tuesday, it can be found right here. We left off right at #154, so let’s dive right back into the rankings and head towards #1.
GROUP 21: CRAP, IT’S OCTOBER 30th AND I DON’T HAVE A HALLOWEEN COSTUME.
153. Ole Miss Rebels: It’s pretty amazing that amidst the Native American team name scandals and the Confederate flag debate, no one thought to point out the school who’s team name is basically, “Remember that time some of us fought the rest of you, because of slavery?”
152. Hampton Pirates
151. East Carolina Pirates: Not enough people talk about the fact that Carolina is not a state, and yet we have this school and the Carolina Panthers masquerading as if it is. Without looking, is this school in North or South Carolina?
Pretty sneaky. Pirate-like, perhaps.
150. Seton Hall Pirates
149. East Tennessee State Buccaneers: Alert! Alert! School from a landlocked state with a nautical team name!
148. Charleston Southern Buccaneers
147. Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks: Of all the unheard of schools on this list, this one sounds the most like I made it up. I didn’t! It’s real!
146. UT- Arlington Mavericks
145. Austin Peay Governors: Next time you’re feeling down, just remember that this school’s actual sports website is LetsGoPeay.com. Good day, Governors!
144. Old Dominion Monarchs: Sounds like a British Premier League team.
143. Fairleigh-Dickinson Knights
142. UCF Knights: Barely edges the much more rare and cool “Monarchs”, simply because if there was beef in Medieval Times, the lazy monarchs would just send the knights to do the work.
141. Longwood Lancers: A knight, but more specific.
140. Nicholls State Colonels
139. Eastern Kentucky Colonels: Their logo is Colonel Sanders, if someone stole the KFC recipe. Comin’ at ya!
GROUP 22: IT’S CUTE THAT YOUR STATE HAS “A THING”
138. North Carolina Tar Heels: This entire group is made up of interesting names that mean a lot to their state and their school, but at face value, I can take or leave them.
137. Nebraska Cornhuskers
136. Oklahoma Sooners: BOOMER SOONER!
135. Wichita State Shockers: I honestly prefer if they’d use the full term “Wheatshockers”.
134. Indiana Hoosiers: I don’t root for them and I don’t love the movie that much, but one day I will name a dog “Hoosier”.
GROUP 23: THE WORST MARVEL SUPER HERO GROUP IMAGINABLE
133. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: It’s really amazing how many of these team names derived from one newspaper article. This one, for example, came about back in the 1920s when Wake was simply the Deacons. A reporter wrote that they played like demons after one game and now almost 100 years later, they are sticking with it.
This isn’t uncommon. News reports inspired a surprising amount of names, even ones as silly and ridiculous as this one. In Wake’s defense, it’s just weird enough to be fun and it brought about a Hall of Fame creepy mascot.
132. Furman Paladins: It’s a funny word for knight and it makes it seem like Furman is the home of tons of Dungeons and Dragons nerds.
131. UTEP Miners: Miners, though not known for fighting, would seemingly be terrifying with a pick axe in hand.
130. San Diego State Aztecs: An interesting addition to the Native American debate. Is it insensitive to name your team after a group of indigenous people who have since been entirely wiped out? What’s the statute of limitations on that?
129. Xavier Musketeers: Do you think of a man with a musket or a swordsman, like The Three Musketeers (who oddly don’t have muskets)?
128. James Madison Dukes
127. Duquesne Dukes: Is it wrong to put Dukes way ahead of something like Monarchs or Governors just because it sounds cool? Nope. These are my rankings. I’ll do whatever I want.
126. Vanderbilt Commodores: Alert! Landlocked state with a nautical team name!
Alert! Team name that’s the same as a 1970’s funk band!
125. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders: I believe the word you are looking for is “Smurfs”.
124. Texas Tech Red Raiders
123. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Major bonus points for not only modifying the somewhat boring “Knights” with a color, but choosing a pretty obscure color.
GROUP 24: PLEASE DON’T HURT ME.
122. Nevada Wolf Pack: They have to be playing clips from The Hangover ad nauseum, right? They are even in Nevada!
121. NC State Wolfpack: I prefer this spelling to the two word version and I’d love to place NC State higher, but their plurality holds them back. It’s tough to single out a member of the Wolfpack. Kevin Durant was a Texas Longhorn. What was David Thompson, other than a “member of the Wolfpack”?
120. USF Bulls: Obligatory:
119. Buffalo Bulls: Such a great name for them. Works so much better than the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, which is a pluralization of one man’s name.
118. Northern Colorado Bears: This is our highest ranked name with more than 5 repeats throughout the nation. Why?
Because bears are awesome. To quote Stephen Colbert, “They are godless killing machines.” Here’s some proof of how cool they are:
117. Morgan State Bears
116. Missouri State Bears
115. Mercer Bears
114. Central Arkansas Bears: You know what they call their women’s teams? Are you ready for this?
THE SUGAR BEARS!
How awesome and possibly sexist is that?
113. Brown Bears: Almost too perfect.
112. Baylor Bears: Probably my favorite school name/team name combo.
GROUP 25: THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER MET EACH OTHER
111. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers: I wonder what this looks like as a mascot…
GAH KILL IT WITH FIRE! MAKE SURE IT’S DEAD!
110. Stetson Hatters: One of the most clever nicknames out there.
109. Portland State Vikings
108. Cleveland State Vikings: I’m so sad that they’ve moved on from one of the best sports logos of all time:
GROUP 26: SIR YES SIR!
107. VMI Keydets: What is a Keydet? It’s Cadet pronounced with a Southern accent. Seriously. That’s actually their reasoning.
106. Western Illinois Leathernecks: WIU has permission from the Marine Corp to use this term, but the connection doesn’t stretch much further than that. It’s a bit odd.
105. Army Cadets: “No, Shane! They are the Black Knights!”
Wrong, my reader. This fall, the boys (and girls) at West Point are back to calling their teams the Cadets. Even though I liked Black Knights, this feels right.
104. Navy Midshipmen: A classic name, which leads to an odd mascot. Why a goat for a naval school? (There are some old stories about goats at sea, but probably not as many as say…an animal that lives in the ocean?)
GROUP 27: TEAM NAMES I’D LIKE TO HEAR SAM ELLIOT SAY
103. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: I love an adjective. Also, this name is one of the first to be embodied by the players and coaches. Tark’s 1990’s Rebels were high octane and earned the “Runnin” tag.
102. New Orleans Privateeers: A much cooler way to say “Pirates”. Also there’s this:
LAFITTE THE INSTIGATOR!
Jean LaFitte was a famous smuggler.
(Frech accent) LAFITTE THE INSTIGATOR!
101. Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners: Meep
100. UTSA Roadrunners: Meep
99. Marist Red Foxes:
98. Loyola (Ill.) Ramblers: Another name inspired by a newspaper report years ago, but this one is pretty fun. Only 97 more! You still awake?
97. Alabama Crimson Tide
GROUP 28: WILD ANIMALS AND THEN MEN WHO SEARCH FOR THEM (all the groupings can’t be perfect)
96. Campbell Camels: I’d guess GEICO made a big ad buy at Campbell games last year. Hump day!
95. Grand Canyon Antelopes: You know Antelopes? That animal that people only talk about when getting eaten by bigger animals?
94. UMKC Kangaroos: Kansas City, famous for its marsupial population?
93. Lehigh Mountain Hawks: If you think we’re done with modified Hawk names, we aren’t. There’s still three more!
And this one is super apt. I visited Lehigh but didn’t even take the time to apply because it is built into the side of a mountain and I wasn’t having that.
92. LaSalle Explorers: We’ve reached the point where I really like all these team names. If there were anything threatening at all about Magellan or deSoto, they’d be higher on this list.
GROUP 29: THE FIVE DAY FORECAST
91. Tulsa Golden Hurricane: When I think “hurricane”, I think of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
90. Tulane Green Wave
89. Pepperdine Waves
88. Iowa State Cyclones: Fierce weather names always confuse me. Cyclones are a huge danger in Iowa. People are frequently killed by them. The same goes for the rest of this group. I’m ranking them essentially according to which is least likely they are to kill you on the school’s campus.
87. Miami Hurricanes
86. St. John’s Red Storm
GROUP 30: ONE TEAM SANDWICHED BETWEEN TWO PERFECT GROUPINGS.
85. South Dakota Coyotes: I snapped this photo on a recent hike in Colorado. Not only does the park feel the need to tell you to fight back if they attack, but it actually recommends throwing objects at coyotes! I’m not Justin Verlander, so they can’t be that scary if a few rocks out of my arm make them skittish.
GROUP 31: BIRDS OF MYSTERY
84. UT-Martin Skyhawks: A bit redundant. Where else would you expect to see a hawk? And why does the hawk in the logo need goggles? He’s a bird.
83. Southern Utah Thunderbirds: When I was in high school, there was a push to change our school’s name to the Thunderbirds. It’s pretty fun.
82. UMass-Lowell River Hawks
81. FIU Owls
80. Kennesaw State Owls
79. Rice Owls
78. Temple Owls: Going into this project, I expected Rice and Temple to be very high on the list. Owls is a great name. They are such an interesting animal and so unique. Then FIU and Kennesaw came along to ruin the parade and drop the Owls crew down quite a few spots.
GROUP 32: TWO THINGS THAT SHOULD BE THE NAME OF A COCKTAIL AND ONE THAT ALREADY IS
77. North Texas Mean Green: Have a Coke and a smile!
76. Purdue Boilermakers: Good original team name with local flair. Cool! Now, for a mascot let’s get a guy in overalls and OH NO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE:
75. Northern Kentucky Norse: It’s like Vikings, but better.
GROUP 33: LET’S TAKE TO THE SKIES
74. Dayton Flyers
73. Portland Pilots: I like both of these names. They are pretty good. Nothing more or less.
GROUP 34: RED, GOLD, FLASHES
72. Minnesota Golden Gophers: Cartoon them up as much as you want, Gophers are rodents.
71. Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions: Yes, lions are already gold. That doesn’t mean adding a modifier to the front of a name doesn’t make it significantly better.
70. St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
69. Kent State Golden Flashes: Weird singular/plural of “Flash” falls just behind “Flashes”.
68. Arkansas Red Wolves: Wolves are a cool animal and they aren’t red. That makes them even cooler.
GROUP 35: THINGS YOU SEE ON A CAMPING TRIP
67. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
66. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks: A large man with an axe makes for a great mascot. If it were unique, it would be a few spots higher.
65. Oregon State Beavers
64. Oregon Ducks: The state of Oregon is weird! Both schools go with animals not typically thought of as intimidating, though they do a great job of injecting some intensity into them.
The best part? The winner of the OU-OSU football game year takes home The Platypus Trophy. Let the genius of that sink in before you continue reading.
63. South Dakota State Jackrabbits
GROUP 36: THE WESTMINSTER DOG SHOW
62. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds: Dogs are the best, even if I am peeved that a few of these schools don’t have a live mascot. Just buy a dog!
61. UMBC Retrievers: These are good dogs:
60. Albany Great Danes: See above. Dogs are great.
GROUP 37: I CAN’T BELIEVE THERE HAVE BEEN 36 GROUPS ALREADY
59. Akron Zips: So what if it means nothing? It’s fun to say.
58. San Diego Toreros: Oh you thought Matadors was good all the way back at #154? BOOM! San Diego just one upped you.
57. North Florida Ospreys: Hey all the teams using “Seahawk” or some derivation, North Florida took the time too Google it and use the actual name of the bird.
56. Penn State Nittany Lions: Plus points for adding their own regional spin, minus points for not being a real animal in any way, shape, or form.
55. Youngstown State Penguins: Get ’em boys!
54. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors: I’ve obviously shown a preference for including a color before a noun. Why not all of the colors?
53. Liberty Flames
52. Illinois-Chicago Flames: We’re getting closer and closer to the point where even one school sharing your name won’t cut it. Not yet, though. Flames is a really cool name.
GROUP 38: ANGRY BIRDS
51. Jacksonville State Gamecocks
50. South Carolina Gamecocks: Putting aside guys who wear South Carolina gear because their inner 12 year old finds it hilarious, there may not be a scarier animal in the fighting chicken’s weight class. Look at it:
49. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers: What is it? The biggest scariest rooster in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Why is it? I don’t really care. It’s scary and pretty damn cool.
GROUP 39: HOUSE BARATHEON
48. Fairfield Stags: An underrated animal mascot if there every was one. Picture a big, strong horse, but with a candelabra of spikes on its head. That’s a real animal!
GROUP 40: DA BEARS
47. UCLA Bruins: I don’t love “Bruins” considering it’s never used or heard outside of athletics. Then again, as stated above, I love bears of all kinds.
46. Belmont Bruins
45. Oakland Grizzlies: If there’s an animal more intimidating than a Grizzly, I haven’t found it yet. Maybe a shark, and there are surprisingly zero teams named after sharks in Division I. What gives?
44. Montana Grizzlies
43. Cal Golden Bears
42. Sam Houston State Bearkats: I’ve brainstormed the reason they spell it with a “K”
- “We used to be called the ‘Normals‘. Anything is better.”
- “Screw it.” (This is the actual reason, basically).
41. Binghampton Bearcats
40. Cincinnati Bearcats: Bears are good. Bears mixed with other animals are slightly better.
39. Maine Black Bears: Specificity and bears go together perfectly.
GROUP 41: THE EVIL GROUP
38. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Sure, it’s an odd stereotype. The bigger issue is the school being in French and the team name being the Irish. More of us need to be baffled by this.
37. Central Connecticut Blue Devils
36. Duke Blue Devils
35. DePaul Blue Demons: Devils and demons are great mascots. I love mythical mascots. Always scarier than real life.
34. Northwestern State Demons: Why are there more blue demons and devils than normal ones? Demons are notoriously red. Let’s not get out of hand. Props to NSU for keeping it regular.
GROUP 42: ANIMALS ARE GOOD
33. Jacksonville Dolphins: Surprisingly original. An animal that everyone knows and loves. Were it more fierce or intimidating, they’d really have something. Fightin’ Dolphins? Sounds better to me.
It’s at this point that we’ll return to the 800 pound Great White in the room. How is not one school in this nation using “Sharks” as a team name? They have a whole damn week on Discovery Channel and can’t get one collegiate team name. Schools within 50 miles of the shore with bad team names, Sharks is open. (Looking at you, Florida International).
32. Utah Valley Wolverines
31. Michigan Wolverines: Can you imagine seeing a Wolverine in the wild? According to Wikipedia, the wolverine “has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself.”
That’s a great rallying cry. If I’m Jim Harbaugh or John Beilein, I’m putting that on a t-shirt or something.
30. Elon Phoenix
29. Green Bay Phoenix: We have reached our final non-unique nickname. Everyone in the top 28 is the only school using their total original nickname.
Why does Phoenix clock in high enough to earn that honor? It’s a great name. Bird that catches on fire and rises from it’s ashes? That is both badass and uplifting.
28. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Tech scoops up a great ranking for a few reasons. You can’t ignore their secondary nickname of “The Wramblin’ Wreck”. Even that aside, bees of any kind are frightening. Just ask Nic Cage:
27. TCU Horned Frogs: At face value, a fun name. Aces the formula of “animal we’ve heard of” + “distinctive, intimidating feature”.
But the horned frog is a real animal. The TCU website is kind enough to include some facts about it.
“The typical Horned Frog is three to five inches long.”
Oh that’s not so bad.
“When angered or frightened, horned frogs can squirt a fine, four-foot stream of blood from their eyes.”
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! NO NO NO NO NO NO.
And the football team has helmets with blood streaks coming from the eyes? OH HELL YEAH.
26. Texas Longhorns: Such a great name. We’re among the cream of the crop now. A perfect image for the state and the school, and they use it so well with their colors, logos, and entire branding.
GROUP 43. ZOOM ZOOM! VROOM VROOM!
25. Toledo Rockets: Our highest ranked inanimate object. But well worth that designation. Whether you are thinking of space exploration or missiles being shot through the sky, Rockets is a great name.
24. Murray State Racers: When I saw/realized this name was Kentucky Derby inspired, I expected Churchill Downs to be in Murray State’s backyard. This turned out to not be true at all. It’s over 200 miles away. This is would be like Villanova taking inspiration from the Battle of Gettysburg (about 125 miles away).
Regardless, I can’t fault them for embracing a state tradition. Is this better or worse than their former name, the Thoroughbreds? BREDS FOR SHORT!
23. Evansville Purple Aces: One of the most difficult to explain my affection for, but boy, do I really dig this as a team name. It sounds so sharp, so cool, and somehow, purple works perfectly.
GROUP 44. AMONG THE GREATS
22. Idaho Vandals: Original, descriptive, and intimidating.
21. Lafayette Leopards: This is truly the difference between being just another one of the boring members of the Wildcat crowd and setting yourselves apart. I was shocked that Lafayette is the only Leopards in the nation. Meanwhile, a host of schools settles for being Copycats.
20. Massachusetts Minutemen: Now this is how you leverage regional history. Awesome alliteration rolls off the tongue, with “Massachusetts” or “UMass”.
Minutemen makes things like Colonials and Patriots sound so boring and irrelevant.
19. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
18. Arizona State Sun Devils: I’ve previously stated my preferences for mythical names (like Devils and Demons) and a descriptive modifier. Both MVSU and ASU hit those points to a tee.
Devils is a good name. Injecting local flair and an original twist make for a great name.
17. Colorado Buffaloes: Charter member of the “Are we really the only ones who thought of this?” Club.
16. UAB Blazers
15. Drexel Dragons: Both appeal to my love of fantasy based nicknames and both score perfectly on the scary scales. Drexel takes the edge over UAB for going with specificity. I rewarded UL-Chicago for chosing “Redbirds” over the more accurate “Cardinals”, but here the effect is the opposite. Dragons isn’t a common enough name to need to skirt around with a synonym.
Still, both are really great names.
14. New Mexico Lobos: Another repeated reason for high scores: Spanish. Torreros is better than Matadors and Lobos is much better than Wolves/Wolfpack. Would it be if the team in question were the Michigan State Lobos? No, probably not. But when you can add a tinge of originality and regional inspiration, you get a superior name.
13. Maryland Terrapins: An instantly recognizable animal that we all know and (in the right context) fear. The “FEAR THE TURTLE” slogan helps a lot.
The main drawback is the obscurity of the word “terrapin”. If not for this school, would any of us know that’s a turtle? Is it possible they’d be better off as the Maryland Turtles? That brings across a different connotation (little aquatic pets). It’s a fine line.
Something like “Snappers” might be their best option, but Terrapins/Terps is strong.
12. Canisius Golden Griffins: Lions is a mediocre team name. Eagles is worse. COMBINE THEM.
AND TELL ME WHAT COLOR IT IS.
11. UL-Monroe Warhawks:
It’s better than regular Hawks, obviously.
It’s better than telling me what color the Hawks are (Red Hawks).
It’s better than telling me where the Hawks live (Seahawks, River Hawks, Mountain Hawks).
It’s better than telling me where to find a Hawk (Skyhawks).
It is taking a terrifying animal and sending it to battle. A hawk flying above the landscape is one thing. A weaponized hawk is worthy of a ranking this high.
GROUP 45: THE CREAM OF THE CROP
10. IPFW Mastodons: Were they to simply be the “Elephants”, IPFW would have an original and very strong name (No one uses “Elephants”, though Alabama has one for a mascot).
But they didn’t settle for pretty good. IPFW chose instead to go with ANCIENT STEROID ELEPHANTS. Per Wikipedia, they largest species of mastodons could grow to 13 feet high (at the shoulders) and 18 tons.
As far as animals I don’t want to come across in the wild, Hulk Elephants are definitely near the top of that list.
9. Wisconsin Badgers: Inspired by the burrowing miners of their state, Wisconsin chose a delightfully frightening creature, who is capable of looking pretty dapper in a sweater.
8. UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns: How about the Louisiana state school system placing two schools in the top 11?
Words can’t really describe how great this team name is, which is fitting, since anything spoken in a Cajun accent can’t be deciphered as words anyway.
7. Florida A&M Rattlers: Imagine you’re hiking. Sure, you don’t usually hike, but a friend who you’ve been growing closer to asked. Maybe it’s a girl/guy you’re interested in! He/she is very attractive. Ooo!
So you’re there for the exercise. Maybe you’ll grab a cool view or see some wildlife. Hey look! You’ve never seen a flower like that before.
It’s been a while since you’ve seen any other hikers or bikers. Now that you think about it, the sun is starting to set. You’ll make it back to the car before dark….Right? Yeah it’ll be fine. Your attractive friend know what they are doing…you hope.
Then you hear a sound. Not in the distance. It’s close and moving closer. Is that…dear God…is that a rattlesnake?
That is why this is why this name is awesome.
6. Richmond Spiders: Every single list of people’s fears includes spiders. Everyone from Ron Weasley to Marv from Home Alone, can’t stand the sight of these little eight legged freaks. Good choice, Richmond.
5. Florida Gators: The most devastating animal in the school’s state is always a winner. When your school’s name is just the name of the state, the animal is as scary as a gator, and it’s an original name? You’re really on to something.
When you use your team name for things like the Gator Chomp and naming your stadium “The Swamp”? That’s worthy of the top 5.
4. Arkansas Razorbacks: The perfect mesh of what the words say and what they mean. They say “animal with sharp razors on its back” and they mean “angry pig with tusks”.
Love being able to call them the “Hogs”. LOVE the “Woo Pig Sooie” chant. In college when I’d go to the Boston Marathon, I’d quite often see Arkansas natives/grads running in Razorbacks gear or even shirts that said “Woo Pig Sooie”. Well, let me tell you, after a drink or two, yelling that phrase at a stranger is a bucket of fun. Getting to do so year round sounds like a dream.
3. Stony Brook Seawolves: This name means nothing. It is not based on anything more than old pirate stories. It is not based in reality at all. And yet:
I want more of this nonsense. SkyTigers, RiverDragons, SpaceBears!
2. Marshall Thundering Herd: I don’t know how this happened. I generally don’t like oddly pluralized names. They make it so much harder to use in most contexts.
Yet, every time I think about this name or hear it or use it, I fall more in love with it. The word “Thundering”, though criminally underused in today’s society, is so perfect. It encapsulates the intensity and the power of a stampede.
Is someone at Marshall reading this? I doubt it, but if you are….PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, have all of your sports teams enter the field to the music from the stampede scene in The Lion King. You will win every game in every sport.
GROUP 46: THE BEST NAME IN ALL THE LAND
1. Kansas Jayhawks
There’s so much to love here.
We’ll start with a history lesson. When Kansas was formed as a territory, slavery laws weren’t created. Instead, the citizens of the territory would be allowed to vote.Slave supporting Southerners and abolitionist Northerners descended upon the state. Naturally, they started to fight, earning the state the nickname “Bloody Kansas”.
The militant groups fighting for Kansas to be designated as a free state would become known as “Jayhawkers”.
Tying your team name to people fighting an American atrocity? Good start.
Then reverse engineering it so that term also refers to a fictional animal? That’s ingenious. So a Jayhawk isn’t a real bird? That’s a fine. It’s a mish-mash of the best qualities of jays and hawks. It can be whatever Kansas wants it to be. Fun, menacing, or cuddly. The Jayhawk is a piece of clay that Kansans have molded for over 100 years.
The topper on the cake? The perfect chant. It’s nonsense, but it’s eerie and exciting. I have no doubt the room fills with goosebumps before every Kansas game thanks to “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk”.
If you hate where your team or favorite name finished, leave a comment. I argued these rankings with myself, now I wanted to argue about them with you.
Header image via Dallas Morning News.