The following article is part of The Motley Fool's "Stock Madness 2006," based loosely on the annual NCAA College Basketball Tournament, a.k.a. "March Madness." Throughout the competition, our writers and analysts will engage in head-to-head competition. You, dear readers, are the fans and referees -- after you read these exciting duels, your votes will determine who moves on to the next round of play. The writer who survives the tournament will be our champion and most valuable "coach."

But please, make no mistake -- "Stock Madness 2006" is a GAME!

In the opening round, I introduced my team, a squad that bears a striking resemblance to those "Showtime" Lakers teams of the 1980s. In the second round matchup, we face a team with one of the outstanding big men in the game. This big fella, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), had the most profitable year ever in American corporate history. Despite having this record-setting giant in the middle, my opponent's portfolio would have underperformed mine by a considerable margin in 2005. And with four small, high-risk companies on the wings, his portfolio carries a dangerous level of risk.

Let's have a quick review of the strengths of my team, which boasts three hall-of-famers and two outstanding growth stocks. Here is the lineup:

  • Nike (NYSE:NKE) -- A clear market leader looking to expand its international sales. With the acquisition of the iconic Converse brand, analysts expect Nike to have a strong 2006.

  • Ceradyne (NASDAQ:CRDN) -- This company continues to acquire significant contracts for its technical armor products. With Ceradyne still in the early stages of its growth cycle, I feel that this is an attractive long-term buy and hold opportunity.

  • NutriSystem (NASDAQ:NTRI) -- With over 1,000% returns in 2005, we're talking a potential MVP here. The weight loss company is still expanding (no pun intended) and appears to have found its sweet spot with its delivered meal programs.

  • (NASDAQ:AMZN) -- One of the first profitable online companies has a number of plans that could deliver huge cash flows in the future. The Street doesn't seem to like this company at the moment, but I wouldn't bet against it.

  • McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) -- The burger giant is in the midst of a turnaround as a result of increasing the average amount of the typical customer check.

A portfolio consisting of equal weights of those five superstars would have delivered returns of 238% in 2005. This compares with a return of 114% for Joey's portfolio. And let's remember, Joey's portfolio consists of one large cap, one mid cap, and three very risky small caps. So he would have achieved lower returns while carrying more volatility. Seems like a bad game plan to me.

I hate to jump sports here, but Joey's team, which includes that record-setting behemoth, ExxonMobil, reminds me of the San Francisco Giants of the past decade. Sure, they had Barry Bonds, who has crushed just about every major batting record, but they were unable to win the World Series. Baseball, like basketball, is a team game, and neither sport rewards teams that don't play well together. The same lesson applies to portfolios. One record-setter and four volatile lesser companies are unlikely to deliver winning returns over the long term.

Joey Khattab's rebuttal
John is offering you amazing returns in 2005. Don't be distracted by his mixed sports metaphors -- 2005 is history!

I'm giving you four up-and-comers that have great potential for future returns, anchored by stalwart ExxonMobil. Do you really want fast-food dinosaur McDonald's and flavor-of-the-month NutriSystem in your portfolio? I'd rather have leaders in exciting technologies, like Red Hat and Blackboard.

Make the right choice, folks.

Who wins this round? Take a look at Joey Khattab's team, and then cast your vote. is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Blackboard is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Joey Khattab owns shares of Blackboard and WWE. John Reeves owns shares in Ceradyne. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.