Billionaire NCAA brackets revealed

People follow the so-called smart money on investing, so how about March Madness?

Steve Cohen
Scott Eelis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Steve Cohen

Some prominent investment managers are contrarian in their NCAA men's basketball tournament Final Four picks.

Steve Cohen , the billionaire head of Point72 Asset Management, thinks No. 3 seed Notre Dame will upset No. 1 Kentucky to emerge as the Midwest region winner, he told CNBC.com via a spokesman.

Cohen—who oversees about $10 billion at his Connecticut-based family office—likes more conventional teams to round out the Final Four: No. 1 Wisconsin in the West, No. 1 Villanova in the East and No. 1 Duke in the South. His alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, didn't make the tournament.

John Brynjolfsson, head of Irvine, California-based hedge fund firm Armored Wolf, said two underdogs will make it to the semifinals in Indianapolis: No. 13 seeds Harvard and UC Irvine.

The Columbia College grad, who runs $500 million in assets, also thinks Kentucky will make the Final Four, but he said the Wildcats won't win.

"As a fiduciary, I can't root for Kentucky, as that would destabilize a few bookmakers who laid out huge odds against them," Brynjolfsson joked to CNBC.com. He likes Duke to win it all.

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Others are sticking with blue-chip teams.

Another billionaire, private equity titan David Bonderman of TPG, thinks undefeated Kentucky will win it all. Bonderman, a University of Washington grad whose firm oversees $65 billion, also likes No. 2 Arizona, No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Virginia to make it to the Final Four.

Steve Pagliuca, managing director at $80 billion Bain Capital and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, thinks the top four teams will be Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia and Duke. A Duke alum, he likes the Blue Devils to go all the way.

Like Pagliuca, several prominent investors picked their own alma maters to win, a move some see as a classic sentimental trap.

A case in point is billionaire hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones . He thinks his beloved No. 2 seed UVA will win the national championship. Jones' Greenwich, Connecticut-based Tudor Investment Corp. runs about $13 billion.

Jaffray Woodriff, another Virginia alum, who runs $1.6 billion hedge fund firm Quantitative Investment Management, also thinks the Cavaliers will ultimately cut down the net. QIM is based near UVA in Charlottesville, and Woodriff is a donor to the school's squash program.

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Some money managers, true to their secretive nature, declined to give or did not respond to requests for comment.

A few examples of those who prefer to keep their picks private include Julian Robertson of Tiger Management (a North Carolina alum); Josh Harris of Apollo Global Management (a UPenn grad and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner); and Jamie Dinan of York Capital (another UPenn alum and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner).