The 13-seeded Furman Paladins have caused havoc in the NCAA tournament by knocking off the 4-seeded Virginia Cavaliers, bringing the small liberal arts school in Greenville, South Carolina, to national attention and also causing fans to ask just what the heck a paladin is.
We’re glad you asked! The concept of a paladin comes from the legendary Twelve Peers of Charlemagne, knights and members of the early medieval monarch’s court. Think of something similar to the Knights of the Round Table. Those of you who’ve played Dungeons and Dragons know the term has survived today to describe a kind of holy warrior, generally tasked by a sacred oath to seek out and destroy evil wherever it appears and take on seemingly impossible tasks. A 13-4 upset certainly fits the latter bill.
Of course, the Paladins aren’t the only unusual or obscure mascot in the NCAA tournament. Here’s a short list of some others.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos: A gaucho is a South American horseman, similar in many ways to the American ideal of the Old West cowboy
Vermont Catamounts: A catamount is a fancy name for a cougar. Unsurprisingly, it means “mountain cat”
Northern Kentucky Norse: The Norse were ancestors of modern Scandinavians, most well-known for “going a-Viking” and raiding in longboats
Saint Mary’s Gaels and Iona Gaels: Gaels generally refer to folks from Ireland and Scotland, some of whom speak Gaelic
Grand Canyon Lopes: This is just short for “Antelopes,” their full mascot name
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