The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The South

We're going region by region, giving you one fun fact about each team in the tournament.

(1) Kentucky
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.

(9) Connecticut
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.
(4) Indiana
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.
(6) UNLV
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.

(11) Colorado
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.
(3) Baylor
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.

(10) Xavier
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.
(2) Duke
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.

(15) Lehigh
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.

See Also...

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.

Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.


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