Monday the Missouri State Lady Bears learned they will face DePaul in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but they did not find out from the traditional selection show.
Writer Blake DuDonis from the website High Post Hoops broke the news on Twitter that ESPNU graphics were showing the matchups for the women’s tournament hours before they were to be unveiled on the ESPN broadcast.
ESPN and the NCAA reacted by moving the bracket show up two hours to 4 p.m.
Missouri State coach Kellie Harper learned of the leak from her brother Ross Jolly, an assistant coach for the NCAA-bound Radford Highlanders.
“My first reaction was, ‘My bubble just got burst,'” Harper said.
She passed the info along to the team in a group message, and the Lady Bears scoured Twitter for the full bracket.
The program decided to keep its watch party plans in tact, watching a truncated version of the ESPN broadcast.
“It’s just not going to quite be the same,” Athletic Director Kyle Moats said. “Because there’s nothing like seeing your name go up there, even though we knew we were going to get in.”
Missouri State is the 11-seed in the Chicago Regional, matchup up with the 6th-seeded Blue Demons at the regional hosted by 3-seed Iowa State.
While the reaction to the bracket revelation was not one of genuine surprise, the confetti, the celebration and the excitement for the Lady Bears going back to the NCAA Tournament is very real.
“It’s unique. That’s for sure,” Harper said. “But the players will still remember it as something very special.
After a 94-point performance in the Valley title game, the Lady Bears are playing like a team ready to make memories well beyond the selection show.