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!

The two squads in this particular competition showcase very different talents, and I could study the scouting report to pick apart any holes and find a way to slow down my worthy opponent's one marquee player -- a proven scorer named BerkshireHathaway.

However, I'm not here to exploit anyone's weaknesses. Instead, I'll be playing to the strengths of my own starting lineup. We all know that it takes experience, teamwork, and solid fundamentals (cue the Hoosiers montage) to advance to this level. It also helps to have a player that dominates its respective position (or industry). Fortunately, I have five.

Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) is the undisputed king of frosty beverages. It manufactures half of all beer nationwide, including six of the top 10 brands. Talk about never having a bad game: The company has increased dividends for 28 straight years, and until recently, it had posted double-digit earnings growth for 24 consecutive quarters. For all its offensive prowess, AB is also a skilled shot-blocker, tirelessly turning away competitors' attempts to chip into its commanding market-share lead.

International Game Technology (NYSE:IGT) is the world's leading slot machine manufacturer. Two out of every three machines in North America are made by IGT, and the company is busy shipping units to overseas casinos as well. As we speak, more than 43,000 installed slots are feeding IGT a cut of either the winnings or the gross wagers. These gaming operations are throwing off a steady stream of recurring, high-margin revenues every day.

SCP Pool (NASDAQ:POOL) is an offensive juggernaut in the wholesale pool-supply industry. After a decade-long buying spree, the company has grown from a tiny, one-unit operation to the world's largest supplier of anything and everything needed to keep a backyard swimming pool crystal clear. I fully expect SCP Pool to be a leading scorer over the next few years, but don't take my word for it. My opponent has already listed the company as one of the market's best, thanks to its stunning 4,000%+ return over the past decade.

VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN) is the world's leading provider of domain registration services, and the top supplier of products to facilitate secure digital commerce. No longer a rookie, VeriSign has diversified its business model. The company now boasts a solid balance sheet (with $850 million in cash and no debt), healthy free cash flows, and an optimistic growth outlook.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is an imposing force, love it or hate it. It may not be up for a fast break anymore, but the big guy is still tough to stop in the retail paint. As a somewhat conservative stock, Wal-Mart may not exactly be a triple-double threat on the court, but it will usually do a bang-up job of protecting your money in a down market. Together with Anheuser-Busch, I expect it to help anchor my airtight defense.

Game on!
There you have it: five companies, five world leaders -- a proverbial dream team. This well-balanced mix of industry leaders should have no trouble continuing to light up the scoreboard . unless people suddenly stop drinking, gambling, swimming, shopping, and using the Internet.

Tim Hanson's rebuttal
Nathan is a gentleman and a scholar, but not a sergeant, so I'll go easy on him.

My lineup's risk/reward profile is simply superior. While Nathan is weighed down by an average market cap of $50 billion, I have three small companies that could double over the next three years. None of his stocks will double.

In fact, Wal-Mart and Anheuser-Busch may gain almost nothing. It's justtooeasy to rehash Wal-Mart's problems, while Bud's problems can be summed up by the joke about the similarities between its flagship beer and, uh, romance in a canoe. (They're both very close to water.) At both companies, management is tripping over itself to destroy its once-strong brand. That shouldn't make investors confident.

Wal-Mart and Bud are both popular "contrary" picks right now. Yet how can a stock be both popular and contrary? These stocks will both weigh down Nathan's portfolio as my picks blow right past it.

Check out Tim's team, then vote for the winner!

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter once made four consecutive free throws. He owns shares of IGT and SCP Pool. Fool editor Tim Hanson holds no financial position in any company mentioned above. Anheuser-Busch is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy .