At this time next week thousands of people will be filling out their brackets for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, an annual event that generates excitement from college basketball fans and even those who have no idea what the nicknames are for Gonzaga and Dayton who might land top seeds.  (Bulldogs and Flyers).

However some 200 7th graders at Manchester Middle School have already filled out and submitted their brackets, not for the basketball tournament but for March Mammal Madness. Created by a doctor at Arizona State University in 2013 it’s an annual tournament of “simulated” combat competition among mammals.

Using science and research the organizers of MMM determine who would be the winner if mammals encountered each other in the wild taking into consideration many factors including weaponry, armor, temperature, etc.  The early rounds are staged in locations that are better suited for the higher ranked mammals but that changes once they get to the Elite Trait, Final Roar and Championship battles.

The task for the middle school students at Manchester and across the country is to figure out who will win these battles in a tournament bracket format.  There are 65 species in four divisions but in the end just like with basketball there is only one champion.

Students research adaptations that each mammal would bring into battle which play out live on Twitter with a recap video posted the next day on YouTube.  Even those who pour into research are often caught off guard because there are twists and turns along the way which could result in major upsets.

The top seeds are the Pygmy Hog, Sloth Bear, Gorilla and Australian Feral Camel but it’s likely one or more will get knocked out along the way.  By the way not all 65 of the participants are mammals but as the organizer say, “all animals are awesome.”

More importantly it makes for a fun science project for the 7th graders at Manchester under the direction of teachers Kristine LaPorte and Sue Morgan.

I am submitting to them my bracket and also going to give 4 tickets to a Lakewood BlueClaws game to the student who earns the most points.

Let the games begin!!!

Kevin's March Mammal Madness bracket (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)