The tournament schedule is set up as a single-elimination "bracket" format. When the tournament's selection committee announces the teams that are invited to play and the schedule of the games, fans will try to guess the outcome of as many games as possible by filling out the bracket form for each round. This is often accompanied by gambling on the outcome of these predictions; this often takes the form of an informal pool where participants stake a certain amount of money, and the most successful predictor wins the pooled stakes. When a lightly regarded mid-major team upsets a traditional powerhouse team, the result often knocks out subsequent predictions of many players in these informal pools, who are said to have had their brackets busted—hence, the term "bracket buster."
There are numerous examples of a bracket buster teams over the years of the NCAA Tournament, even dating back before the tournament came to be the widespread cultural event that it is today. One early example is the March 18, 1971 Mideast Regional game in which Western Kentucky defeated its better-known in-state "big brother," Kentucky, 107–83. The game was more significant to hoops fans in the Bluegrass State, as the Kentucky Wildcats and coach Adolph Rupp had steadfastly refused to play any other in-state schools in regular season games, so the game itself was very significant no matter the outcome. The Hilltoppers later advanced to the Final Four.
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