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!

If you want to win, you need balance. Allen Iverson might be one of the most talented people to ever handle a basketball, but what has he managed to accomplish with the Philadelphia 76ers? It's all well and good to have some riskier growth ideas in your portfolio (in fact, I think almost all of us should), but you build a winning portfolio the same way you build a winning team -- a core of solid players who know their role, come at good prices, and are more likely to give you positive surprises than negative ones.

Let's look first at the riskier part of my mini-portfolio in this tournament. Transocean (NYSE:RIG) has gotten smacked hard as the entire drilling space has come under pressure, and its guidance was a little disappointing. But is anybody out there willing to bet that the story is over for offshore oil exploration? In time, the market will come back around to realize that offshore drilling is still important, dayrates are still going higher, and Transocean is a good company.

DOV Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:DOVP) gives you exposure to the wild and woolly world of biotechnology -- a sector that's known for producing five-baggers, 10-baggers, and the occasional 100-plus-bagger. Combine promising drugs for insomnia, pain, and neurological disorders like depression and anxiety, and you've got a major potential winner.

So we've looked at the snipers -- now let's look at the bench. I realize that 3M (NYSE:MMM), General Mills (NYSE:GIS), and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) probably all look boring enough to be cures for insomnia in their own right. But here's the thing -- they're well-run companies trading at very appealing valuations.

What's more, they all have a certain amount of inevitability to them -- we're talking about major franchises in food, banking, and household and industrial products. So whether the economy slows, the housing boom collapses, or there are more terrorist attacks, General Mills is still going to sell cereal and 3M is still going to sell Post-it notes. And by the way, these three happen to also pay nice dividends.

Shruti Basavaraj's rebuttal
While Stephen is busy finding balance in his life (try yoga, Stephen, it works wonders), his portfolio is going to end up as deep underwater as those Transocean exploration rigs. He says that even if the economy slows, people will keep on buying those Post-its from 3M and cereal from General Mills. But 3M is highly affected by manufacturing costs, and General Mills is dependent on raw-material costs -- and that leaves the companies exposed to an uptick in inflation, which might come with a slowing economy.

My portfolio should stand up under good times and bad. People will need cardiovascular therapies to treat medical disorders even if the housing bubble pops. Women will need Elizabeth Arden's (NASDAQ:RDEN) cosmetic enhancements even if their menfolk are out of work (probably more so, in fact -- those menfolk will need some mighty cheering up). As for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), since many Web-based businesses depend on the search giant to survive, that ad revenue should continue even in times of tightened purse strings. And will people stop using the Web completely? I sincerely doubt it, so I can't see Google being any less significant over time. Inevitability, indeed.

3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, and JPMorgan Chase is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. We have newsletters to suit lots of investing styles -- take your favorites for a free, 30-day trial run.

Can Stephen's balanced lineup overwhelm the Google-led monster? It's in your hands, readers -- check out Shruti's team, and then cast your votes!

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of 3M and JPMorgan. Fool research analyst Shruti Basavaraj owns shares of Elizabeth Arden. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.