Posted: Tuesday March 21, 2006 3:56PM; Updated: Wednesday March 22, 2006 6:24PM
SI.com: How about the mid-major matchup between George Mason and Wichita State in the Washington, D.C., regional?
Cramer: I compare these two to stocks that are trading on the bulletin board: big risk, but also the potential for a big reward. There's room for speculation in any portfolio, but the winner of this game will probably be a 15-point underdog against Connecticut. The Huskies -- UConn, not U-Dub, whom they play on Friday night -- have too much depth and size. I liken them to Procter & Gamble, which has just been unbeatable since absorbing Gillette last autumn.
SI.com: We've already mentioned two Missouri Valley Conference schools in Bradley and Wichita State. Never mind that Billy Packer is bearish on the MVC; is there a market sector analogous to this conference?
Cramer: I would compare the Missouri Valley Conference to the solar energy sector. It's a growing market that is finally getting attention. It's largely ignored by the dyed-in-the-wool powerhouses, and at their own peril.
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SI.com: In my purely hypothetical bracket, I have West Virginia cutting down the nets in Indianapolis. Am I in a House of Pleasure or a House of Pain?
Cramer: You are most likely going to be in the House of Pain. The Mountaineers are the most underrated team left in the tournament, and of course they have my favorite name, Pittsnogle, but it will be very difficult to get past Duke. They're kind of like Circuit City, who will always play second fiddle to Best Buy in consumer electronics, in relation to Duke.
SI.com: Betting on Duke is like buying 100 shares of General Electric. It is so by the book.
Cramer: The book! The book! Thank you for mentioning it. Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World, climbing up the New York Times best-seller list. By all means, buy the book.
SI.com: No, what I meant was, it's quite the conservative play, no?
Cramer: Maybe, but Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is probably the best coach since UCLA's John Wooden. Like him or hate him, he's the Jack Welch of college hoops. This is what I like to refer to as good management when I analyze stocks. How good is this guy? In the past 20 years Duke has made the Final Four 10 times. And this year they're going back.
However, if West Virginia gets past Duke -- assuming the Mountaineers beat Texas first -- it's worth remembering that they beat UCLA earlier this season in Westwood.
SI.com: So let's hear your Final Four portfolio. Are you diversified?
Cramer: No. I've got nothing but large caps. I have Duke squaring off against UCLA in one semifinal and UConn against Villanova in the other. All four schools have won at least one national title in the past 21 years.
The early upsets are fun, but the cream will eventually rise to the top. It's just like the fact that there's a lot of market volatility in any given short-term time period. However, over the long run, it's difficult to exceed the returns of a passively managed index like the S&P 500.
SI.com: And how do you see those final three games shaking out?
Cramer: Duke is a great team run by a best-of-breed coach in Coach K. I expect a very close game, but the Bruins will have no answer for J.J. Redick, who is the best pure shooter I can ever recall seeing in the college game.
UConn and Villanova split their earlier two Big East games this year. I like the Huskies in the rubber match because of their size and a great coach in Jim Calhoun.
That sets up a clash of the titans between two mega-cap stocks, Duke and UConn, who between them have won three of the past six championships. It's a replay of their 1999 championship game, which UConn won.
SI.com: I'm sorry, Jim, that's our buzzer, indicating the end of our round.
Cramer: No! You're not gonna do that to me. Not before I give you my national champion.
I give the Huskies the advantage at every position with the exception of off-guard, with Redick. And yet he'll have his hands full guarding UConn's 6-foot-9 Rudy Gay. Come April 3 it'll be booyah! to Calhoun and the Huskies.