The mental_floss Guide to the NCAA Tournament: The Midwest

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

(1) North Carolina

© Duomo/CORBIS

Yearning to learn more about your kidneys? Head to the University of North Carolina’s Carl W. Gottschalk Collection. The 12,400-item collection houses legendary medical professor Gottschalk’s passion: historical items related to the study of kidneys. Gottschalk’s medical research focused on the kidneys, and throughout his life he managed to collect texts, engravings, woodcuts, and other relics on the subject that dated back to the 16th century.

(16) Vermont
Vermont shares an uncommon nickname with Western Carolina University — the Catamounts. Another name for a wild cat, the catamount is the state animal and appears on the back of the 1927 Vermont commemorative half-dollar.

(8) Creighton
The Creightones are a men's a cappella group at Creighton.

(9) Alabama
In 2010, an Alabama staffer was fired for playing “Take the Money and Run” on the football stadium PA system while Cam Newton and Auburn warmed up.
(5) Temple
You know who met while attending Temple? Hall and Oates.

(12) South Florida
South Florida was the southernmost public university in the state when it was founded in 1956. Some of the other proposed names for the school included Citrus State University, Sunshine State University, and the University of the Western Hemisphere.
(4) Michigan
All three crew members aboard the 1971 Apollo 15 mission to the moon had ties to the University of Michigan. They left a charter for a U of M Alumni Association branch on the lunar surface.

(13) Ohio
Ohio University has appeared on the Princeton Review’s list of the nation’s top party school 12 times since 1997 – including #1 on the most recent edition.
(6) San Diego State
San Diego State established the first Women’s Studies department in the United States in 1970. The department granted its first degrees in the mid-1980s.

(11) North Carolina State
In North Carolina State’s “Krispy Kreme Challenge,” students meet at the Bell Tower on campus, run 2.5 miles to the Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back to the Bell Tower. This feat must be accomplished in one hour.
(3) Georgetown
Georgetown is the setting of St. Elmo’s Fire, but the on-campus scenes of the 1985 Brat Pack film were filmed at the University of Maryland. Georgetown administrators reportedly wouldn’t allow Joel Schumacher to shoot on campus because they didn’t condone premarital sex. It should be noted that The Exorcist was shot in Georgetown in 1973.

(14) Belmont
Belmont is located in Nashville. The university owns and operates its own recording studios, which are used both by students and for profit. One, the well-known Ocean Way Nashville, has been utilized by artists that range (alphabetically and style-wise) from Alan Jackson to Yo-Yo Ma.
(7) St. Mary's
In 1959, 22 students stuffed themselves in a phone booth and were featured in LIFE magazine. According to the school's director of media relations, the photo "evolved from a late 1950s international fad of telephone booth stuffings on college campuses."

(10) Purdue
Purdue would dominate a basketball game played on the moon. Twenty-two Purdue graduates, including Neil Armstrong, have been selected for space travel, and Purdue alumni have flown on nearly 40 percent of all human U.S. space flights.
(2) Kansas
Though Dr. James Naismith invented basketball, he’s the only KU basketball coach in history with a losing record.

(15) Detroit
The University of Detroit-Mercy purchased a historic Detroit firehouse as a facility to hold free legal clinics.

(Eliminated in Round One) California
Cal boasts many famous alumni, including cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who graduated with a College of Mining degree in 1904. Goldberg designed sewers in San Francisco and worked as a sports cartoonist at the San Francisco Examiner before moving to New York in 1907.

(Eliminated in Round One) Lamar
Lamar originated as South Park Junior College in 1923. South Park graduate Otho Plummer won a contest to rename the school in 1932. His winning suggestion honored Mirabeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas.

See Also...

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

Your esteemed fact-finding crew: Jamie Spatola, Stacy Conradt, Ethan Trex, Colin Perkins, Scott Allen and Meg Evans. Enjoy the Tournament!

Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists

We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal

Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).


Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.


A display of tools.

Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.


A stack of bed linens.

Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.


Rows of holiday gnomes.

If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.


Child choosing a toy car.

Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.


Rows of rings.

Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.


Searching for flights online.

While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.


Gift basket against a blue background.

Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.


Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.


Group of hands holding smartphones.

While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.


Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.

Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).


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