Goldman CEO Likes Gonzaga, Ackman Takes Baylor in NCAA Challenge

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According to titans from the world of business and finance, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the favorites to cut down the nets in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Half of the 52 participants in the Bloomberg Brackets for a Cause competition picked the Zags to win it all, and 44 people selected them to at least make the championship game. Only six see a team other than the top-seeded Bulldogs winning the West Region.

Goldman CEO Likes Gonzaga, Ackman Takes Baylor in NCAA Challenge

There is strong reasoning behind some of the top names on Wall Street jumping on Gonzaga. The Mark Few-coached team enters the tournament with a perfect 26-0 record. If the Zags are the last team standing, they will be the first undefeated men’s team since 1976.

Illinois is the second-favorite to win it all, with 12 participants taking the Fighting Illini. The two favorites to go all the way were selected to face each other in the final matchup by 18 people.

Because of the pandemic, this year’s tournament will look different than normal. Every game is being played in Indiana, with a majority in Indianapolis. As of Thursday morning, eight positive cases were identified out of more than 9,100 tests conducted -- a positivity rate below 0.1%. Fans will be allowed, but no venue can go above 25% capacity.

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

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Solomon went with the highest-placed teams for his Elite Eight, selecting all one-seeded and two-seeded teams to advance. His big upset: Colgate over Arkansas in the first round. Solomon took Gonzaga over Houston in the national championship game.

Bumble Inc. founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd has Villanova in her Elite Eight and took Texas Tech as her champion.

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman sees 12th seed UC Santa Barbara taking down fifth seed Creighton and No. 13 North Texas over fourth seed Purdue. The founder of Pershing Square Capital Management has seventh seed UConn and sixth seed Texas Tech making the Elite Eight, but in the end he sees Baylor winning it all.

The winner of the 2019 contest, Kynikos Associates founder and President Jim Chanos, likes Illinois to beat Michigan in the title game.

Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg’s Final Four looks different than most entries, as he selected Iowa, Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas -- with the Longhorns cutting down the nets.

Dina Powell McCormick, Goldman’s global head of sustainability and inclusive growth, is a University of Texas graduate, but she sees the magic running out when the three seed faces Gonzaga in the Final Four.

Jean Hynes, the incoming CEO of Wellington Management, and Michael Novogratz, the CEO and founder of Galaxy Digital Holdings, both picked Oklahoma State as their champion. The fourth-seeded Cowboys have Cade Cunningham -- the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and player-of-the-year contender -- on their squad.

UBS Asset Management President Suni Harford was the only one to pick a double-digit seed to win it all, going with Syracuse University and the famous 2-3 zone defense.

Suzanne Donohoe, KKR’s global head of strategic growth, likes 15th seeded Iona to beat the two-seed Alabama in the round of 64.

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 $2,021 in honor of the current year and to raise money for the World Central Kitchen. Since its start in 2015, the contest among the top names in finance has raised more than $2.5 million for charity.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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