We're going region by region, giving you one fun fact about each team in the tournament.
Kentucky got its royal blue team color from a piece of clothing. In 1891 the school needed a set of team colors before a football game against in-state rival Centre College. After some debate, the students settled on blue and yellow. (The yellow would change to white a year later.) Only one question remained: what shade of blue would they use? According to the school, football letterman Richard C. Stoll pulled off his royal blue necktie and suggested the squad use its hue. His classmates agreed, and UK had its blue.
(16) Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky has an odd rival: Italian TV company Mediaset. In 2004 Western sued the company, which was founded by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for ripping off its popular mascot, Big Red. Several of Mediaset's shows had used a mascot named Gabibbo, who in some photos looked like Big Red had grown a hilarious mustache and raided Cap'n Crunch's closet. Despite the similarities, courts found in favor of Mediaset.
(8) Iowa State
Peanut whiz George Washington Carver went to Iowa State. He later taught there.
If you’re an aspiring puppeteer in search of a master’s degree, you’ve got one choice: the University of Connecticut. UConn has been offering classes in puppetry since 1964, and the school now says it’s the only institution in the country that offers MA and MFA options for puppet arts.
(5) Wichita State
The Shockers get their name from students who used to shock (harvest) wheat for money. Pep club members were called “Wheaties.”
(12) Virginia Commonwealth
VCU has three campuses: two are in Richmond, and the third is in Doha, Qatar.
Indiana’s Bloomington campus is home to the Little 500, a 50-mile bicycle relay race founded by Howard “Howdy” Wilcox in 1951 as a means of raising scholarship money for working students. Wilcox based the race on the Indianapolis 500, which his father won in 1919.
(13) New Mexico State
New Mexico State has a Chile Pepper Institute. They sell their own hot sauce, Holy Jolokia, to help fund research and education. They also maintain a chile library.
There are some serious fundraising benefits to being a university located in Las Vegas. As a foundation board member at UNLV, Frank Sinatra organized two benefit shows for the university in the 1970s. In 1983, he helped commemorate the opening of the Thomas & Mack Center – an 18,500-seat arena – by performing at the opening along with Dean Martin and Diana Ross.
Colorado is located in Boulder, but it could have been established in Cañon City. When given the choice of being home to the University of Colorado or the Colorado State Prison, Cañon City officials chose the prison. They reasoned it would be better attended.
Former US Representative Tom DeLay was expelled from Baylor for vandalism after painting Baylor colors onto buildings at Texas A&M.
(14) South Dakota State
Oreo ice cream was developed at the SDSU Dairy Plant.
(7) Notre Dame
Notre Dame boasts the oldest college band in continuous existence in the United States. The “Band of the Fighting Irish” is also the only college band to feature a section of Faltos – alto horns in the key of F.
The University allows professors to forgo the standard alphabet grading system and instead assign a “Vanished Failure” to any student who doesn’t attend class enough.
Before going with Blue Devils, Duke considered the nicknames Blue Eagles, Royal Blazes, Blue Warriors and Polar Bears. Bonus Fact: mental_floss magazine was founded at Duke University in 2001.
Lehigh was almost named “Packer University” in honor of its founder, American railroad pioneer Asa Packer. When Packer gave the $500,000 and 60 acres in 1865 for the establishment of the university, it was the largest donation of its kind to any educational institution in America.
(Previously Eliminated) Mississippi Valley State
Mississippi Valley State’s most famous graduate is Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. Nicknamed “World,” Rice teamed with Delta Devils quarterback Willie “Satellite” Totten to form “The Satellite Express” and set numerous NCAA passing records. MVSU’s football stadium was renamed Rice-Totten Field in 2000.
The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The West
Your esteemed fact-finding crew: Jamie Spatola, Stacy Conradt, Ethan Trex, Colin Perkins, Scott Allen and Meg McGinn. They'll be back with another region this afternoon.