Courtesy of Drake University / Instagram
After a year off—thanks again, pandemic—March Madness is finally back with the promise of great basketball featuring the country's best college players.
But we ain't here to talk about any of that. We, of course, are here to write about the doggies: specifically, the real-life mascots of four teams that made the NCAA Tournament's 68-team field—Connecticut, Drake, Georgetown, and Tennessee.
So fear not if your alma mater didn't make the big dance. We'll help you pick the right
team dog by laying out everything you need to know: breed, personality, history, and fun facts. Plus, we'll actually tell you how likely they are to win the title (if you're actually interested in basketball.
Editor's note: Sorry to cat lovers out there. None of the teams have house cats as mascots. The best we can do is offer up LSU's Mike VII.
Here are the dogs:
Jonathan XIV, University of Connecticut
Seed: No. 7 in the East Region
When can I maybe see him on TV: UConn plays No. 10 Maryland (Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS)
Can UConn win the tournament? Pretty unlikely, but the powerhouse UConn women are a No. 1 seed in their tournament
Bio: This 7-year-old husky became UConn's 14th live mascot in 2014, just after the UConn men won their fourth national title. Thankfully, he's been around to see the women win their two most recent championships. On campus, members of Alpha Phi Omega look after Jonathan. At home, he lives with his brother, Jonathan XIIV, and enjoys playing outside—especially when it snows.
Griff II (George), Drake University
Seed: No. 11 in the West Region
When can I maybe see him on TV: Drake plays No. 11 Wichita State (Thursday, 6:27 p.m. ET on TBS)
Can Drake win the tournament? Nah. (But feel free to prove this alumnus wrong, Bulldogs.)
Bio: English bulldog George, whose title is Griff II, is relatively new, becoming Drake's live mascot only last year, succeeding his brother Griff I (this author's close personal friend). This goofball's likes include: "griiffucinnos," antagonizing Griff I, and spending time with Drake students. Dislikes: wearing his boots, having a cold bottom.
Jack, Georgetown University
Seed: No. 12 in the East Region
When can I maybe see him on TV: Georgetown plays No. 5 Colorado (Saturday, 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS)
Can Georgetown win the tournament? Almost certainly not
Bio: Jack is the latest live English bulldog to represent Georgetown, which has boasted live bulldog mascots since the 1960s. The rotund fella has a peculiar favorite food: salads with no olives. He also enjoys chasing his green water can and spending time on campus. You can follow him on Facebook, where he shows off his latest Halloween costumes.
Smokey X, University of Tennessee
Seed: No. 5 in the Midwest Region
When can I maybe see him on TV: Tennessee plays No. 12 Oregon State (Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET on TNT)
Can Tennessee win the tournament? Probably not, but they have a better chance than these other three teams
Bio: Smokey X is the Volunteers' latest bluetick coonhound mascot. The first, Blue Smokey, was named the Tennessee mascot in 1953. Since then, all 10 of University of Tennessee's pups (all named Smokey, obvi) have all been raised by the same family in Knoxville. Smokey X arrived at UT in 2013. Under his watchful hound eyes, the football team has gone a pedestrian 50-48. However, he does love celebrating touchdowns with the fans.
The Perfect Dog Bracket
Ideally, we'd be able to pencil each of these teams into an all-dog Final Four, but the selection committee put Georgetown and UConn in the same region and zero live dog mascots in the South. Annoying. They must be cat lovers.
In any case, if you want to only support the live-dog-mascot teams in your bracket (and have no interest in winning any money) here's your Final Four:
Massive underdog—lol—Drake (West) vs. either UConn or Georgetown (East)
Tennessee (Midwest) vs. whatever team you want from the South
National Champion: whichever dog mascot you love the most
Man, this would be so much easier if the No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga University Bulldogs had a live mascot. Sadly, the university made the decision to phase out live mascots in 1980. Why!?