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The “Market Madness” Finals

After two-and-a-half long weeks, the Halftime Report's "Market Madness" stock tournament has arrived at its ultimate match-up.

What began as 64 individual stocks, selected based on market cap and market popularity, was then arranged into four stacked divisions of 16 each. These corporate contestants were grouped together based on the location of their headquarters and seeded by their trailed 6-month stock performance, in our nod to the NCAA tournament.

Our panel of experts kicked off the tournament by quickly cutting down the initial 64 to 32 names – setting the stage for two weeks of heated debates. Each day saw our traders eliminate some of Wall Street's darling stocks from the court, and allow numerous Cinderella companies to continue their journey toward market glory.

Whether it was Apple being cut down by Nike early in the second round, or Visa charging ahead of JP Morgan in our "Elite 8", this year's tournament saw no punches pulled by our experts during any match.

On Friday this road that began back in mid-March with possibility, hope, and 64 stocks has come to its end – the final match-up between Alphabet, the champion of the West division, and Visa, the fighting-financial hailing from the East.

Off the "Market Madness" court, Visa and Alphabet may not seem like likely competitors. On the surface these two names have little in common, less their reach and impact on a wide range of consumers.

Their stock performance echoes the differences between the two – with Alphabet's stock price appreciating an impressive 41 percent, compared with Visa's (albeit impressive) 19 percent return; each trumping the S&P 500's lackluster return of -0.5 percent.


Yet some could say this comparison is unfair – pitting two mega-caps against each other where one has a $330 billion market cap lead over the other, or where each operates in a totally unique industry.

But this is the Halftime Report, and our experts don't shy away from contest – they embrace it.

And in the case of Alphabet vs. Visa, they were certain to make this one no easy win for either stock.

Tipping things off, Jon Najarian made the bullish case for Alphabet and selected California's search giant as the clear winner. "Alphabet wins it on strength of international growth and video advertisements," Jon Najarian said. But he was also sure to get in one last jab on Visa.

"Visa may be almost anywhere you want to be, but not in the number one spot on the Halftime Report Stock Bracket!"

Pete Najarian wasn't going to allow Jon to swing the tide of the contest early however, casting his final vote in favor of the credit card company. "The move from cash to plastic continues to be a strong driver and should propel this name higher."

Pete also took note of the March non-farm payrolls numbers in his decision. "The U.S. government said hiring remained strong in March, showing consumers will likely keep spending."

So, after 14 match-ups, the winner of our tournament came down to the deciding vote by Steve Weiss – something, it may be safe to say, no one saw coming – including Weiss himself

"This match-up will be decided in overtime on a last second shot," Weiss said.

Little did he realize, he was the last-second shot.

"While I am fond of both companies and view them both as solid investment ideas in a difficult environment, Alphabet is the less expensive stock on a forward basis and has higher growth."

And, with that final shot, the first annual "Market Madness" tournament came to its close. Alphabet, the 3 seed from the West, fought its way through 63 other companies to claim its title as the tournament's first inaugural champion. All the other mega-cap competitors fought well but Alphabet sits at the top for our experts – for now.