South Carolina coach Frank Martin was sitting in his team’s locker room watching Sunday’s two-hour NCAA tournament selection show on CBS when his phone rang.
That’s how he learned the bracket had been leaked on Twitter and that the Gamecocks’ name wasn’t on it.
“I was told that the first two regions were pretty much right to a T and that we weren’t in,” Martin said. “I didn’t see it. I just heard about it — that it was revealed, posted or whatever.”
A CBS spokesperson told ESPN that the network would have no comment on the leaked bracket.
The NCAA later released this statement: “We go through great lengths to prevent the tournament field from being revealed early, and the NCAA took its usual measures to protect this from happening. Unfortunately and regrettably, the bracket was revealed prior to our broadcast partners’ having the opportunity to finish unveiling it. We take this matter seriously, and we are looking into it.”
The bracket, not unlike the names of Hollywood award winners, is always a closely guarded secret, with the 68 teams not identified and the matchups not posted before the televised special.
But on Sunday, someone on Twitter posted a bracket at approximately 6:30 p.m., or about midway through the televised show. Cautioning “Spoiler Alert: full bracket:” the post showed the full field of 68.
By then, both the South and West regions had been revealed, and they were identical to the leaked versions.
“Our entire team saw it before the fourth region was out,” Randy Bennett, whose bubble-dwelling Saint Mary’s team didn’t make the cut, said via text. “We were ready to leave at that point.”
Not everyone was so convinced that the leak was legit. Jim Boeheim said all his Syracuse players discovered the bracket — and that the Orange were included in the field as a 10-seed — via social media, but he wasn’t certain it was real.
“I don’t believe that stuff too much,” he said. “But we heard about it. Everybody knew about it. It was all over the Internet.”
At South Carolina, Martin intentionally didn’t say anything to his team about the purported leaked bracket, as he was unsure if the information was accurate. Once it was proven true and the Gamecocks were officially left out, Martin said he wasn’t angry about the leak but was upset about not being selected.
“The leak? That is what it is,” he said. “But we set a school record for wins. We won 11 league games in a BCS conference. We lost to a conference tournament 6-seed. I’m not going to sit here and discredit other teams that got in over us, but I’m not sure what else we were supposed to do.”
At Notre Dame, coach Mike Brey said he got a text from his son, Kyle, a tight ends coach at Youngstown State, saying the leaked bracket showed the Irish playing the winner of the Michigan-Tulsa game in Brooklyn.
“I thought he was messing with me,” Brey said. “So I just deleted it. Fifteen minutes later, we show up, and then I found out we had a little leakage going on. Nothing’s secure, huh? That’s great. That is so typical. It’s so typical of college basketball.”
“We were wondering what we were going to do for that entire time,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “All of a sudden we knew rather quickly.”
This was the 35th selection show on CBS. The first show was broadcast in March 1982. The show was 30 minutes until 2001, when it was extended to an hour. This year’s was the first show expanded to two hours.
Information from ESPN’s Darren Rovell and The Associated Press was used in this report.