The extreme limit of wisdom, that's what the public calls madness.
-- Jean Cocteau

There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.
-- Petrarch

Here at The Motley Fool, we strive to educate, amuse, and enrich folks about stocks, investments, and finance in general, because it really is what we love to do. To drag out one last quote from Carl Jung, "the creative mind plays with the objects it loves."

So once again, we are proud to introduce to you our Stock Madness Tournament. Like the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament (aka "March Madness"), this process is devoted to selecting a winner while entertaining and enriching spectators and participants alike.

Like the NCAA tournament, we have established players with long records of success, such as Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM); plucky emerging talents such as iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT); and perhaps some more unconventional contenders, such as National Research (NASDAQ:NRCI) or Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU).

While our tournament is still based loosely upon the basketball event that will dominate airwaves, watercooler discussions, and IM exchanges for weeks to come, we've made a few changes from last year's event. Instead of pitting individual stocks against each other, each championed by a Fool, this year 16 Fools are leading a handpicked mini-portfolio into head-to-head combat -- and you're going to help decide the winners. Here's the basic breakdown:

  • Each Fool has drafted a mini-portfolio of five stocks in a process familiar to those who have played in fantasy sports leagues. For each "game," Fools will pair off and write dueling articles in which they can make the case for their selections and/or attack the prospects of the rival team.

  • At the end of each competition, you'll find a link to a voting page, where you can select the portfolio that you believe will outperform for the next two to three years. Readers will be allowed one vote for each contest, and the polls will stay open for 24 hours after publication. In the final round, we'll keep the polls open even longer.

  • Our tournament won't match up day-for-day with the NCAA competitions, but we will begin today and end on the same day as the NCAA championship game.

  • The winner will garner bragging rights to lord over his or her fellow Fools for an entire year. As we've learned from last year's winner, Tim Beyers, those bragging rights aren't likely to go unused.

Please remember that this is ONLY A GAME. Our mini-portfolios don't necessarily represent our best ideas, nor are we suggesting that you should go out and buy the stocks in the victorious portfolio. We also realize that the voting process is subject a certain degree of fickleness and manic enthusiasm, so please don't view the ultimate tallies as definitive statements on the quality of the stocks, arguments, or Fools involved.

While we certainly hope that you will pick up new ideas -- either in the discussions of 80 different stocks, or in the philosophical investment approaches of our Fools -- this whole process is just our way of reminding everyone that while investing is serious business, it's not without an element of fun.

Now, let's get this tourney started!

The Motley Fool's "Stock Madness 2006" is neither endorsed by, nor affiliated with, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). But if the NCAA is interested (and will give us tickets to the Final Four), we'd like to talk about partnership.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares). iRobot is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.