In the competitive spirit of college basketball's annual championship tournament, The Motley Fool brings you Stock Madness 2007! Our writers are making head-to-head arguments for their chosen stocks (but not necessarily investment recommendations -- this is, after all, a game), and you'll pick the winners with your article recommendations and Motley Fool CAPS ratings. Who will win the right to cut down the net? Let's tip things off and find out!

In the opening round, my colleague Tim Beyers spent most of his column talking about Virginia Commonwealth University's basketball team, along with his own mythical team of five cartoon characters from Marvel (NYSE:MVL).

VCU lost the next day -- though as a basketball junkie, I salute them for an incredibly valiant effort. And as for my lineup, I'll see his five scribbles and raise him 100 million middle-class, education-obsessed Chinese.

In an independent survey, a group found that young Chinese professionals were willing to spend an average 10% of their salaries to get ongoing training, English-language instruction, or preparatory tests to gain admission into prestigious international graduate schools.

Is there anything that you'd be willing to spend more than 10% of your income on? I mean, besides taxes and housing.

Oh, here's one thing: You, on average, should be willing to spend that and a whole lot more on education as well. Top-flight private universities in the U.S. have increased their tuitions more than 6% per year for more than 25 years now. First Marblehead (NYSE:FMD) states that the private lending industry in the U.S. is growing at 30% per year, and will continue to do so. Education is important. Pick-churs, like the ones that Marvel manages ... well, some of them are pretty.

The China Daily assesses China's middle-class cohort as having an average income of about $9,000. Remember, this is 100 million people, and both numbers are 10 times what they were 15 years ago. All the while, China's university system churns out graduates who are shockingly unprepared to operate in a Western-style business environment. That leaves the private continuing education programs to fill the gap, either by helping people improve their skill levels, or getting them admitted to international universities to achieve the same thing. Wait, did you hear that? One thousand Chinese people just entered the middle class. Maybe you'll hear it the next time -- it will only take a few minutes.

How big is the opportunity for New Oriental Education and Technology (NYSE:EDU), the leading private educator in China? Well, the company is the leading competitor in a highly fractured market, though it only controls 3% of the market. More importantly, it's the best competitor, and the most respected name brand in the market -- and if there's anything that the Chinese tend to obsess over more than education, it's name brands. This is a huge market, it's growing rapidly, and it's ripe for consolidation under the single best, most relevant brand. That's New Oriental, and there's really not a close second here.

This is the Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) of Chinese education -- except that it's early in its growth, in the fastest-growing economy on the planet. It is growing ubiquitously, and it's the brand the most Chinese people trust for the vital investment of personal education.

Doodles. Pffffft. Compare them to admission into Columbia School of Business, especially for someone for whom the chance of success means an exponentially higher financial outcome.

Does New Oriental Education deserve to move on to the next round? If so, simply follow this link and rank the stock "outperform" in Motley Fool CAPS. If not, vote it "underperform." Later this week, we'll tally your votes to determine which stocks will advance one step closer to the title.

Read our opposing article on Marvel, or see all the entries in the tournament.

Think you could pitch your favorite stock, or ditch your least favorite, in 27 seconds or less? That's what we're doing over at Motley Fool CAPS. Check out our new stock videos.

Fool contributor Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. First Marblehead is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. New Oriental is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Starbucks and Marvel are Stock Advisor picks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.