Part of the excitement of March Madness is the anticipation of finding out who's going to play in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament -- a.k.a. the Big Dance -- and who's staying home.
But somebody apparently didn't feel like sitting through CBS Sports' two-hour selection show Sunday and decided to spoil the fun (and anticipation) by leaking the entire 68-team bracket on Twitter about a half hour into the telecast -- before more than half of the tourney field had been announced. (CBS is the parent company of CNET.)
The leaked bracket, which proved to be 100 percent correct, instantly went viral. This ruined -- or relieved -- the excitement surrounding and surprise of the most eagerly awaited announcements in sports. Just ask Comcast Sports' Chris Miller.
The hashtags #leakedbracket and #leakednccabracket were trending and just like that, you knew which teams that were sweating to get an invitation (Syracuse and Tulsa are lucky) and which teams had their bubbles burst -- sorry Monmouth and Valparaiso. (Can you say March Sadness?)
In fact, the #leakedbracket hashtag soared to more than 100 mentions per minute shortly before 6:30 p.m. Eastern, according to social media analyst platform Brandwatch.
Naturally, a majority of the mentions were positive and also marveled at how the leaked brackets were correct, said Kellan Terry, a Brandwatch data analyst. Negative mentions mostly took aim at how long the selection show was, he added.
"I do expect the conversation to continue to grow as people keep discussing it through the day," he said.
It might spike again once the source of the leak is determined."
The NCAA said in a statement Sunday that it goes to great lengths to keep the bracket from being revealed early and took its usual measures to protect it again this year.
"Unfortunately, and regrettably, the bracket was revealed prior to our broadcast partners having the opportunity to finish unveiling it," the NCAA said. "We take this matter seriously and we are looking into it."
NCAA tournament selection committee chair Joe Castiglione added on "The Dan Patrick Show" Monday that: "We're absolutely certain that (the leaked bracket) didn't come from anybody associated with the committee or the NCAA."
When Patrick mentioned to Castiglione that the early reveal could have an impact on advertising dollars for CBS, Castiglione replied: "Well, in our world of technology, it didn't take very long for it to get out. That's really unfortunate when (CBS is) working through an entirely new process to reveal the bracket to America."
This was the first time CBS made its Selection Show two hours long from the previous hour-long format. But in this day and age of the Internet, even 10 minutes may be too long. Instead of showing the full bracket and doing analysis afterward as in previous years, CBS decided to break things down region by region.
For at least one impatient basketball fan, this was a clear shot clock violation. Perhaps next year's show will be a much shorter, straightforward show, if only to not repeat another disaster -- and keeping analyst Charles Barkley from using the touchscreen.
A CBS Sports spokesperson declined to comment Sunday.
Meanwhile, will the tourney's No. 1 seeds Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and (stunner) Oregon make it to the Final Four in Houston in April? Or will scorned Michigan State, possible Cinderella Fresno State or UConn make it?
Let the real madness begin...
Update: at 12:01 p.m. PDT with comments from Brandwatch and NCAA tourney selection committee chair.