The mental_floss Guide to the NCAAs (The East)

We may not be much help in filling out your bracket. But throughout this week we’re going to bring you a _flossy take on March Madness: one interesting fact about each of the 68 teams in the tournament field. Today we're tackling the East region.

(1) Ohio State houses at least one museum that won’t bore anyone to tears: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The museum, which is named after late Columbus Dispatch editorial cartoonist Billy Ireland, houses nearly half a million editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, and manuscripts.

Not surprisingly, famous cartoonists love the museum. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz’s widow gave the museum a $1 million donation with a promise to match up to another $2.5 million in donations from others. One of the others who has donated? The Family Circus creator Bil Keane, who gave the museum a $50,000 gift.

(16) Texas-San Antonio has come a long way since 1970, when its earliest students attended classes in an office park. The school has grown to more than 25,000 undergraduates, recently completed more than $250 million in construction projects, and is preparing to transition to Division I FBS status in football in 2013. ESPN SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle is one of the Roadrunners’ most famous graduates.

(16) Alabama State was founded in 1867 and boasts a wide-range of notable alumni, including civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks. NFL quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and Flavor of Love 2 winner Deelishis also attended ASU, which is located in Montgomery.

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(8) George Mason’s fans and students are surely pulling for the Patriots to make a deep run into the tournament that mirrors their incredible 2006 trip to the Final Four. The school’s admissions office might be rooting the hardest for Jim Larranaga’s squad, though. In the year following the Final Four campaign, GMU saw its applications for freshman admission shoot up by 20 percent. The school also said that it had to triple the number and size of its campus tours for prospective freshman to keep up with the sudden interest in all things George Mason.

(9) Villanova boasts the Liberty Bell’s “Sister Bell,” a replacement ordered after the original bell cast at the foundry cracked. When the first bell cast from the Sister mold was damaged in a fire set by rioters in 1844, a new one was cast and sent to Villanova for safekeeping. It now sits quietly among students studying at Falvey Memorial Library.
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(5) West Virginia has produced a handful of professional basketball players, including NBA icon—and we do mean icon—Jerry West. After leading the Mountaineers to the 1959 national championship game, West was the second overall pick of the 1960 NBA draft and a 14-time All-Star for the Los Angeles Lakers. Alan Siegel, who designed the NBA’s ubiquitous red, white and blue logo in 1969, says that he used a photograph of West dribbling the ball with his left hand as the model for the silhouetted player in the logo.

(12) The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been known as the Blazers since the nickname was the winning entry in a name-the-team contest sponsored by the school’s student newspaper in 1977. The meaning of the nickname is unknown, though some have speculated that it was a reference to UAB’s trailblazing medical school. (In 1960, UAB faculty member Dr. Basil Hirschowitz became the first man to explore the human stomach with an endoscope.) A dragon, not a medical device, served as the school’s first mascot, but was later replaced by Beauregard T. Rooster and, for one year, a Viking. The dragon, named Blaze, returned for good in 1995.

(12) Clemson football coach John Heisman (of Heisman Trophy fame) was pretty shrewd. In 1902, his team traveled to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech and immediately started partying upon their arrival. When Georgia Tech’s players and fans heard that the entire Clemson squad had spent the night before the game carousing, they prepared to coast to an easy win. When the game started, though, Clemson roared out of the gate en route to a 44-5 stomping.

How did Clemson crush Tech when by all rights they should have been ridiculously hungover? The “team” that everyone had seen partying the night before wasn’t really Heisman’s Clemson squad at all. He had sent his junior varsity players to Atlanta the night before to serve as drunken decoys, then quietly slipped his varsity team in on a morning train right before the game.
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(4) 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.

(13) Princeton seniors have used “beer jackets” to protect their clothes from spillage, and, more recently, carry six-packs, as part of a tradition that began in 1912. The senior class votes on a design for the jackets, which are distributed in the spring before commencement every year. The early jackets were made of white denim to hide any beer foam that spilled on them, while more recent designs have been made of black canvas and feature plenty of spacious inside pockets. Talk about the perfect tournament-watching accessory.
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(6) Xavier actually has two mascots. D’Artagnan the Musketeer has been around since 1925; the idea of using a French musketeer came about because the school had strong ties to French culture in its early days. The other mascot, the Blue Blob, has a more mysterious back-story. The school may have developed the Blue Blob because the heavily armed D’Artagnan terrified small children, but others claim that the school won the Blue Blob as part of a Skyline Chili promotion in the 1980s.

(11) Marquette offers its students a pretty rock-and-roll living opportunity. Some lucky Marquette sophomore is sleeping in a room where the Beatles once crashed. The Fab Four played to a packed house at the Milwaukee Arena on September 4, 1964, before spending the night at the Coach House Motor Inn. In 1980 Marquette needed more space to house undergrads, so the school bought the hotel and converted it into a dorm called Mashuda Hall. There’s still a bit of debate about which rooms actually housed the Beatles, but the school’s website says that the common belief indicates it’s somewhere on the seventh floor.
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(3) Syracuse’s giant football and basketball stadium, the Carrier Dome, gets its name from heating and cooling leader the Carrier Corporation, which plunked down a $2.75 million naming gift to help with construction during the late 1970s.

(14) Indiana State also gets in on the Hoosier State’s racing spirit. Since 1970 the school’s annual spring week has included a tandem bicycle race. Coed mixed pairs participate in the race, which is nowhere near as silly as the campus’ other racing tradition: a 10-lap race around the quad on tricycles. The trike race dates back to 1963.
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(7) Washington's teams used to be called the Sun Dodgers, which was the name of a college magazine that had been banned from campus. School officials weren't wild about the name, so in 1921 a committee set out to pick a new one. The committee narrowed the field down to two options: Malamutes and Huskies. According to GoHuskies.com, those names were selected because of Seattle's proximity to the Alaskan frontier. The Huskies nickname was officially adopted on February 3, 1922.

(10) Georgia became the first university in the United States to be established by a state-supported charter when a 1785 act by the General Assembly incorporated the school. More than 200 years later, Georgia became the first university in the world to feature a school devoted specifically to the study of ecology. The Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology, named for the late UGA professor who wrote the first textbook on the subject, opened in 2007.
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(2) UNC may not have won a title last year, but the Tar Heels were #1 in one important poll—the Forbes 2009-10 list of college basketball's most valuable teams. UNC's hoops squad was valued at $29 million, up 12 percent from the previous year. Rounding out the top five: Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Illinois.

(15) Long Island is just the team for you if you enjoy a good talkie. Until 2005 the Blackbirds played their home games in Brooklyn’s Paramount Theatre, which happened to double as the first theater ever designed for talking pictures. The 4,124-seat venue opened in 1928 and showed movies and hosted concerts until LIU bought it and converted it into an arena in 1962. Some pretty huge names played concerts at the venue before it closed, including Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, and Ray Charles.

The place actually kept rocking even after LIU turned the theater into a hoops venue. The school left the original Wurlitzer organ in the building and would fire it up for games.

Ethan Trex, Stacy Conradt, Meg Evans and Jason English also contributed to today's bracket. See Also: The Southwest and The Southeast.

11 Masks That Will Keep You Safe and Stylish

Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

Face masks are going to be the norm for the foreseeable future, and with that in mind, designers and manufacturers have answered the call by providing options that are tailored for different lifestyles and fashion tastes. Almost every mask below is on sale, so you can find one that fits your needs without overspending.

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Brio

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This cotton mask pack is washable and comfortable. Use the two as a matching set with your best friend or significant other, or keep the spare for laundry day.

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RipleyRader

Don’t let masks get in the way of staying active. These double-layer cotton masks are breathable but still protect against those airborne particles.

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Avoid the accidental nose-out look with this cotton mask that stays snug to your face.

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Eargasm Earplugs

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Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

8 Facts About "Rowdy" Roddy Piper

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images
Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

It takes a strong personality to stand out in a sport full of them, but Roderick George Toombs, otherwise known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (1954-2015), managed to sustain a career as one of the most colorful characters in the history of professional wrestling. For more on “Hot Rod,” including his martial arts background and his unlikely turn as a big-screen hero, keep reading.

1. Roddy Piper was a very accomplished bagpipe player.

Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 17, 1954, the future “Rowdy” Roddy Piper earned his nickname early in life. According to Piper, he was “too much” for his parents to handle and wound up leaving home at the age of 13. Piper lived in youth hostels and hitchhiked. Despite his nomadic lifestyle, he was an accomplished bagpipe player and claimed he played in the Rose Bowl at age 12 before being nationally recognized for his abilities on the instrument at age 14.

It was the bagpipes that led to Piper’s career in wrestling. Playing with a band one night at the Winnipeg Arena when he was still a teenager, Piper—who was also an amateur wrestler and boxer—volunteered to step in for a wrestler who didn’t show up for a scheduled bout against Larry Henning. Piper came to the ring in a kilt and was announced as “Roddy the Piper.” Though the bout lasted just 10 seconds, he had found his calling.

2. Roddy Piper once wrestled a bear.

Before Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (later World Wrestling Entertainment) organized pro wrestling in the United States, various regional organizations would do whatever they could to garner attention and fans. While performing in Fresno, California, a young Piper got an offer to wrestle “The Bear.” Piper believed this was one of wrestling’s theatrical nicknames. It wasn’t. The promoter, Roy Scheiers, wanted Piper to grapple with a real Kodiak bear that had been declawed. Though Piper was expected to try and pin the bear, the animal maintained a dominant position until its handler used a tranquilizer to end the match. Piper later discovered a friend had smeared honey in his trunks to make the bear more aggressive.

3. Roddy Piper was a black belt in judo.

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka look on as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper battles WWE Superstar Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 25 in 2009.Bill Olive/Getty Images

When Piper moved to California in 1973, he wrestled frequently at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. The promoter for the territory was Mike LeBell, who had a half-brother, Gene LeBell, a renowned martial artist who practiced judo. Piper and Gene LeBell became friends. LeBell taught him judo and eventually awarded Piper a black belt in the art.

4. Roddy Piper suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of wrestling.

While wrestling may sometimes be dismissed as fake, injuries are a very real and common occurrence for its athletes. In 1983, Piper agreed to wrestle a “dog collar match” with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. In the bout, the men would be connected via a chain attached to their respective neck collars. When one wrestler had enough slack on the chain, he would use it to assault his opponent. Having the chain smashed into his head broke Piper’s left eardrum and cost him a 50 percent loss of hearing in that ear. Owing to the nature of wrestling tours, Piper and Valentine wrestled the same dog collar match dozens of times over the next two months.

5. Roddy Piper did not get along with Mr. T.

When McMahon had consolidated a number of wrestling territories in the 1980s, his next move was to create a large-scale event with a lot of hype behind it. WrestleMania debuted in 1985 and featured Hulk Hogan and Mr. T taking on Paul Orndorff and Piper in the main event. Mr. T was a celebrity thanks to his performance as Clubber Lang in 1982’s Rocky III as well as the NBC television series The A-Team. But Piper was wary of losing a bout to someone who was only making a passing appearance in the wrestling world and told McMahon he wouldn’t allow Mr. T to defeat him in the bout. It was Orndorff who was pinned. For WrestleMania 2 the following year, Piper and Mr. T faced each other again, this time in a simulated boxing match. Piper lost by disqualification after body-slamming Mr. T, a clear violation of the rules.

6. John Carpenter cast Roddy Piper in They Live because the wrestler walked funny.

Roddy Piper stars in They Live (1988).Shout! Factory

In 1988’s They Live, a drifter with the enigmatic name of John Nada (Piper) discovers a subversive alien plot to control humans via subliminal messages. Director John Carpenter cast Piper after meeting the wrestler following his match in 1987’s WrestleMania III. “Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him,” Carpenter told Starlog in 1988. “He has been hit so many times, that he is really broken up. He even walks funny, because his pelvis was shattered and his back was wrenched. He is definitely not a pretty boy. He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever met. You could run a truck into Roddy, and he would still be standing.”

Piper’s shopworn physicality won him the role. They Live went on to become a cult classic, in part due to a ridiculously long fight scene between Piper and actor Keith David.

7. Roddy Piper became a member of G.I. Joe.

In 2007, Hasbro unveiled a limited-edition G.I. Joe figure of Piper as an Iron Grenadier Trainer from the Scottish Army for their annual International G.I. Joe Convention. He joined fellow wrestler Sergeant Slaughter, who debuted as a Joe in the 1980s. Piper also appeared at the convention to sign autographs.

8. Roddy Piper released a pop song in 1992.

Along with Hulk Hogan and other wrestlers, Piper helped popularize the WWE in the 1980s by appearing alongside singer Cyndi Lauper in music videos and on MTV. Lauper even got in the ring on occasion. In 1992, Piper got out of his own comfort zone by recording a single, “I’m Your Man,” that was released in the UK by Epic Records. You can watch Piper croon in the video above.