In celebration of March Madness, The Motley Fool is pitting 16 editor-selected companies in a fierce Stock Madness bracket ... we’re down to eight! For each matchup, we will show you how the companies rank based on five key metrics, but your votes will determine the winner.  

This matchup is Disney (NYSE: DIS) vs. Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL). Using five short-of-scientific-but-carefully chosen criteria, let's determine which is the better buy according to the numbers:

 

Factor

Disney

Apollo Group

Cheapness

(P/E ratio)

20.1

14.7

Growth

(5-year growth rate)

13.3%

21.6%

Operations

(net margin %)

9.11%

15.4%

Balance Sheet

(debt/equity ratio)

.38

.13

CAPS Rating

(scale of 1 to 5 stars)

Round 1: Cheapness

Advantage: Apollo Group. Cheapness is determined by P/E ratio. The lower the better. Be careful of earnings near zero that skew the ratio, one-time gains and losses, and pasts that aren't indicative of futures (the more dynamic the industry, the more this is true).

Round 2: Growth

Advantage: Apollo Group. Growth here is the trailing five-year EPS growth rate. This trailing earnings growth helps put notoriously-optimistic Wall Street projections in perspective.

Round 3: Operations

Advantage: Apollo Group. Net margin percentage shows how efficiently a company turns revenue into profit. The more similar the business models, the more relevant the comparison.

Round 4: Balance sheet

Advantage: Apollo Group. As with net margins, the debt to capital ratio is most relevant in comparing companies in similar industries. In this battle we give the nod to the lower-debt company, but attention should also be paid to the cost of debt, interest coverage ratios, and the stability of the business (the more stable a company’s operations, the more debt it can safely carry).

Round 5: CAPS rating

Advantage: Disney. A company’s CAPS rating is our community’s opinion of the stock. You can get more information on your stocks -- and our community's opinions of those stocks -- by clicking over to CAPS area.

Each of these five rankings need more context -- like, how these companies stack up against their potential foes next round -- Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE: PBR) and General Electric (NYSE: GE). But these basic numbers suggest that Apollo Group is a better buy. It's up to you, though. Vote for the winner in the poll located below the bracket.

A group of editors picked the Stock Madness competitors, so there is no individual author to disclose an interest in them. Since this article was automatically generated,it is possible that Motley Fool personnel (and even The Motley Fool itself, through its real-money portfolios), have positions in these stocks. We thought you'd like to know that. You can learn more about The Motley Fool’s disclosure policy here.