The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The East

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

(1) Syracuse

Syracuse’s colors were originally pink and blue, but the class of 1890 changed it to orange. A member of that class explained the switch at his 50th reunion in 1940: "What kind of 'whoopee' can be made with pink and blue, the pale kind you use on babies' what-do-you-call-thems? It just couldn't be done!" (Note: The Syracuse University Archives say pink and blue. Student Affairs mentions a pink/pea green combo.)

(16) UNC-Asheville
The school's mascot was originally called Puck, after the character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The bulldog was later known as Chug-a-Lug, and then Winston (for Winston Churchill's bulldog jowls). In 1995, the athletic department held a contest to name the dog, and the winning entry was "Rocky"—a tribute to Rocky Balboa.

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(8) Kansas State
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s brother Milton was the president of Kansas State from 1943 to 1950.

(9) Southern Miss
In 1940, Southern Mississippi voted to change its name to “The Confederates,” though they changed it to “The Southerners” a year later. Their mascot was General Nat, named after Confederate leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. They adopted the current Golden Eagles name in 1972.
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(5) Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt was endowed in 1873 when Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt donated $1 million to build a university in the South. His purpose was "to contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all of our common country."

(12) Harvard
Besides Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, other famous Harvard dropouts include Robert Frost, Matt Damon, William Randolph Hearst, and Pete Seeger.
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(4) Wisconsin
The Onion was started in 1988 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by a pair of third-year undergraduates. The name may have derived from the fact that the founders were so poor, they resorted to eating onion sandwiches.

(13) Montana
Rolling Stone magazine declared that Montana had the “most scenic campus in America.”
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(6) Cincinnati
Joseph Strauss fell in love with bridges while a student at Cincinnati. Years later, as the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, Strauss placed a brick from a demolished UC campus building inside the bridge’s south anchorage.

(11) Texas
Texas has its share of famous dropouts, too, including Michael Dell, David Geffen, Farrah Fawcett, and Janis Joplin.
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(3) Florida State
If you feel drawn to Florida State when applying to colleges or filling out your bracket, there may be a scientific explanation. FSU is home of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory which houses the world’s most powerful magnets.

(14) St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure is named after—you guessed it—a Catholic saint named Bonaventure. Born John of Fidanza, Bonaventure got his new name when, as a sick child, Francis of Assisi prayed with his mother for healing, crying “O Buona Ventura!” (“Oh, good fortune!”) with regard to the child’s promising future.
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(7) Gonzaga
Gonzaga awarded Bing Crosby an honorary degree in 1936. The singer and actor had studied law at the Spokane school before dropping out to pursue a music career.

(10) West Virginia
Students at West Virginia celebrate the university’s Appalachian heritage during “Mountaineer Week.” And since 1949, many have celebrated by participating in a beard-growing contest. The contest begins and ends with a group shave, the latter taking place in front of the panel of judges who then determine the winner.
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(2) Ohio State
OSU’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library is “the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility documenting printed cartoon art.” The current holdings include more than 450,000 original cartoons and over 2.5 million comic strip clippings.

(15) Loyola Maryland
Loyola's alumni include Mark Bowden, who wrote Black Hawk Down, and Tom Clancy, author of The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears.

See Also...

The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The West, The South

Your esteemed fact-finding crew: Jamie Spatola, Stacy Conradt, Ethan Trex, Colin Perkins, Scott Allen and Meg Evans. They'll be back with another region this afternoon.

March 15, 2012 - 11:34am
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