STORRS -- Like they do every year, the UConn women’s basketball team gathered in the locker room to watch the Selection Show for the NCAA Tournament. They didn’t know their seed or opponent until it flashed across the screen that they would be heading to the Albany Regional as a 2 seed.
On the surface, this seems like normal operating procedure. But this year’s bracket unveiling was far from normal.
Around 3:20 p.m. on Selection Monday, ESPNU was airing a rerun of “Bracketology.” All was normal until the screen shrunk and sidebar slid in with the complete bracket for the women’s basketball tournament. It cycled through every region of the bracket -- with the exception of the lower half of the Albany Regional -- before it quickly disappeared from the screen.
Screenshots quickly popped up on Twitter as buzz over the bracket grew. ESPN responded to the mistake at 4:30 by moving the Selection Show up two hours to 5 p.m.
But UConn was blissfully unaware of the unfolding chaos.
“I was in my bed watching Hulu,” Christyn Williams said. “I was about to fall asleep because we weren’t originally supposed to be here until 6:30, so I’m glad I didn’t fall asleep.”
“I was laying down watching TV, just relaxing after practice,” Megan Walker said.
Then, everyone on the team got a text from associate head coach Chris Dailey that told them they needed to head to the Werth Champions Center earlier than expected. Nobody was quite sure what was happening.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Walker said.
Once everyone congregated in the locker room, seniors Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson let their teammates know the bracket had leaked and the selection show was moved up. However, since nobody had even heard the actual result, they all decided to just watch the show live and learn the old fashioned way.
“We didn’t want to know,” Walker said. “We just watched the show to see where we would be.”
“Nobody wanted to say anything because we wanted to watch it,” Williams echoed.
In the end, it wasn’t anything more to them than just learning who they were going to play a little earlier than expected. Head coach Geno Auriemma wasn’t even aware of all that unfolded.
“I happened to be upstairs and I was finishing up a couple things and [assistant director of video Ben Kantor] says ‘Okay I got it, we’re all set.’ I said ‘Got what?’ He said ‘Got the bracket.’ So I’m like ‘Ha, someone leaked a bogus bracket.’ Then he showed it to me and I just started laughing. I thought ‘I can’t believe I have to wait until seven’ then they said we’re having it at five.”
Auriemma has a solution to prevent the bracket from being leaked in the future.
“I don’t understand why they don’t do it last night. The men’s (selection show) comes on at, what, 6:00? Come on a five o’clock, get it over with, everybody will watch it, everyone will have fun with it then go to the men’s,” he said. “If they had that thing all ready since Sunday, that’s a long time to keep something from screwing up. Just get it over with last night.”
But ultimately, Auriemma thought the gaffe was just a small thing that added a different layer of intrigue to the unveiling.
“It had a little comic feel to it. A little slapstick,” he said. “It caused a little bit of a ripple and everybody had some fun with it.”