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!

Just my luck: I get pitted against perennial powerhouse Seth Jayson in the first round. Now I know how the Southern Jaguars felt playing Duke.

After looking at Seth's team, though, I'm confident of an upset. Let's break down the matchup. On my team, I have market leaders such as:

  • ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) - The world's leading oil and gas company has over $300 billion in annual sales. With a growing natural gas business and what I deem a reasonable valuation, Exxon is a solid investment.

  • Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS) - This tiny beverage maker is the best-performing stock of the last decade. Hansen recently announced impressive results for 2005, beating analyst expectations once again.

  • Blackboard (NASDAQ:BBBB) - Blackboard has become a major force in online educational software and shows no signs of slowing down. It also has the support of Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter service.

Backing up those big-time scorers, I also have cash cow World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE:WWE) and open-source guru Red Hat (NASDAQ:RHAT). Now there's a team you can pencil in for the Final Four!

Scouting the opposition
On the other side of the court, Seth is fielding some stocks that frankly aren't that impressive. His MVP appears to be Gap (NYSE:GPS), which Seth himself called a value trap only a few weeks ago. To quote Seth, "If you buy Gap now, you buy on hopes for a turnaround that's nowhere in sight." It's poor coaching for Seth to give Gap any playing time after that public flogging. Gap should be riding the pine.

There's also True Religion (NASDAQ:TRLG), the trendy jeans maker. Sure, $200 jeans are hot right now, but fashion is fickle, and it's hard to stay in the top spot for long. Stiff competition in the high-end jeans market from Lucky, Citizens for Humanity, Paper Denim & Cloth, and even Levi Strauss will eventually take its toll.

Are his other players even worth mentioning? Target is a decent company, but Hot Topic has nothing to report but decreasing comps and margins. Zumiez has growth potential, but I'm inclined to say the valuation is far too rich for a retailer.

At this point, it's clear that my stellar team is dominating Seth's second-rate retailers. Seth can normally write circles around me, but I can tell his heart just isn't in this tournament.

Better call a time-out, Seth, because it's clear you need a new game plan.

Seth Jayson's rebuttal
Coach K. can jabber all he wants. His over-the-hill soda popper is going down, and Senators Hammer 'n' Sickle are gonna put the hurt on Exxon. My time-tested veterans and upstart retailers have their fingers on the pulse of American shoppers, and that's why they're gonna bring home the money, baby.

Gap is both a Stock Advisor and Inside Value recommendation. Blackboard is a Hidden Gems pick. Take the newsletter that best fits your investing style for a 30-day free spin.

Can Joey's wild bunch take down Seth's mall-rat squad? Check out Seth's team, then cast your vote .

Joey Khattab owns shares of WWE and Blackboard. Seth Jayson is feeding his team a steady diet of kelp and unprocessed eggwhite. At the time of publication, he had shares of Blackboard, but no positions in any other company mentioned here. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.