By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky women’s basketball team was set to have dinner together at a Lexington restaurant and watch the NCAA Tournament selection show to see what seed they earned and where they would be playing.
But about three hours before the show was originally scheduled to air on ESPN Monday night, the brackets got released on ESPNU. The selection show was then moved up to 5 p.m. but by then teams already know who was in the tourney, where they were playing and how they were seeded.
ESPN issued this apology: “In working with the NCAA to prepare for tonight’s Women’s Selection Special we received the bracket, similar to years past. In the midst of our preparation, the bracket was mistakenly posted on ESPNU. We deeply regret the error and extend our apology to the NCAA and the women’s basketball community. We will conduct a thorough review of our process to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.”
Kentucky found out it will be a No. 6 seed and play Princeton in Raleigh.
Senior Maci Morris said it didn’t bother her that the information leaked out early to ruin the suspense of watching a live selection show.
“I’ve been kind of anxious to find out who we would play and where we were going, so finding out a little sooner wasn’t too bad,” Morris said.
Another senior, Taylor Murray, said coach Matthew Mitchell told them he had a surprise and then let them know the pairings were out early.
“We’re glad that we are in the NCAA and we know who we are playing because it gives us more time to prepare,” Murray said.
Mitchell was not all that upset, either. Maybe he knows there’s a lot more to worry about this weekend than when the bracket got revealed.
“You just have to take life the way that some things come at you. I was not surprised how the team handled it. They have been so about the right thing this year and you’ve worked hard and you’ve waited a long time, but some things happen and they handled it great,” Mitchell said.
“They’re excited to play. I think they just want to go play. So, we have all made a lot of mistakes, so whoever did that just made a mistake, so we’ll extend them some grace and move on.”
Good for Mitchell. Besides, what’s done is done.
“We’re excited to be playing and I think that’s what the team is excited about right now is the opportunity to play and finally know. It is such a long time to wait. You know, we’ve played Saturday or Sunday in the SEC Tournament so many times and to go out on Friday just makes it a long time, even longer, so the team handled it great,” Mitchell said. “We had a great practice session today. So, we left practice and went right off the floor and saw who we were playing.”
Mitchell said he’s not concerned about UK’s bracket other than the first game with Princeton.
“They are the class of the Ivy League. I know their coach really well and she’s an awesome coach and they have a lot of experience in the tournament. I have not seen them play this year, we’ll go after this and start digging into the Princeton Tigers,” Mitchell said.
Remember last year UK didn’t get a NCAA invite. So just playing in the NCAA is more important today than who UK is playing.
“We’re just so happy to be playing. Really I think it has been good for us, that we’ve been able to focus on us. You know, you don’t know who you’re playing, so all you have is to work hard and really try to come together and be the best version of Kentucky and over the past few days and I really like what I see form that standpoint,” Mitchell said Monday night. “So, we’re going to turn it loose and give it everything we have and we’re very excited to be playing.”