May 29, 2023


Be life confident

Griffin Likes Gonzaga, Bumble CEO Takes Kansas in NCAA Challenge

3 min read

(Bloomberg) — Wall Street is once again banking on the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

More than 40% of participants in this year’s Bloomberg Brackets for a Cause competition picked the Zags to win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The annual charity competition, which features titans from the world of business and finance, is resembling last year’s tournament — when half the field predicted that Gonzaga would cut down the nets. Those forecasts proved cloudy, with the Baylor Bears topping Gonzaga in the 2021 final.

Still, there’s a strong case to be made for Wall Street jumping on the Gonzaga bandwagon again this year. The Mark Few-coached squad is the top seed in the tournament for the second consecutive season. And this year, the Spokane, Washington-based team is led by two second team AP All-Americans in Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme.

Arizona, the second-most-popular team picked to win the Big Dance among participants, also features a second team AP All-American: Bennedict Mathurin. The Wildcats cruised to a 31-3 regular-season record and a Pac-12 championship.

In general, Wall Street stuck to the chalk. More than 85% of brackets have the Zags in the Final Four and over 80% of Final Four teams selected were one or two seeds. One outlier is that more than 40% are expecting fourth-seeded Providence to lose to No. 13 South Dakota State in the round of 64 on Thursday.

Here is a look at some picks from this year’s participants: 

Defending champion Jenny Johnson, Franklin Templeton’s chief executive officer, likes Arizona. Last year, Johnson correctly called three of the four finalists in the tournament and accurately predicted that Baylor would beat Gonzaga for the title. This year, she sees the Zags, Baylor and Iowa joining the Wildcats in dancing to the final weekend.

Bill Ackman, last year’s runner-up, has Gonzaga beating Arizona in the title game. The founder of Pershing Square Capital Management has two 13-seeds pulling off upsets: Vermont and South Dakota State. Ackman also has 11-seed Virginia Tech advancing to the Sweet 16.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO David Solomon has Gonzaga over Kansas in the title game. He sees some upsets early in the tournament, picking 13-seed Vermont over four-seed Arkansas, 12-seed UAB to beat Houston, and three of the four 11-seeds to survive until the weekend.

Ken Moelis and Paul Tudor Jones see Kentucky as the last team standing.

Rich Handler has Gonzaga facing Arizona in the title game. He’s not alone: about 40% of the field has that matchup for the championship game. The Jefferies Financial Group Inc. CEO has the Zags winning.

Hershey Co. CEO Michele Buck has Purdue in the Final Four, with Gonzaga over Tennessee for the title.

Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg sees Arizona going all the way. He likes Texas Tech to take down Duke to advance to the Elite Eight and, like Ackman, has No. 11 Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16.

Ken Griffin sees Tennessee taking down Arizona to advance to the Final Four. He likes Gonzaga over Kansas in the title game.

Bumble Inc. founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd has five-seeded Houston taking down Arizona before falling to Villanova. She sees Kansas defeating Baylor for the championship.

In a divergence from the pack, Cleveland Cavaliers chairman Dan Gilbert chose Auburn to win it all. Cisco Systems Inc. CEO Chuck Robbins has Baylor, and Blackstone Inc.’s David Blitzer went with Villanova.

Click here to see the full field of participants and their selections.

Each participant is making a $10,000 charitable pledge — along with selecting a nonprofit to benefit if they are a top finisher, plus an additional $2,022 — in honor of the current year — to raise money for the World Central Kitchen’s efforts to feed those displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The winner’s charity will get 50% of the total pool, second place will get 35%, and 15% goes to third.

Since its start in 2015, the contest has raised more than $3 million for charity.

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