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Polito: Papal brackets

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PHOTO COURTESY: RELIGION NEWS SERVICE PHOTO COURTESY: RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

It's that time again. The writers at the Religion News Service have put out their brackets for March Catholics. Here are your 16 "popefuls" for the 2013 crown.

This year we have yet another international tournament. The Italians have historically dominated; however, the last two champions, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, came out of other European organizations.

Last time it was Germany. They have held on to the Vatican for eight years, and remember the big upset in 1978 when Poland won it all. Nobody saw that coming, including me.

The Religion News Service has matched up two Americans in the first round, and it's a classic Boston-New York rivalry, just like the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Beantown's Sean O'Malley is up against the Big Apple's Timothy Dolan. This one will get rough, but no matter who advances I think they will get knocked out in the second round.

The Americans have not won this tournament even once in its 2,000 year history.

The fact that they made it to the Sweet Sistine is huge, but they lack experience. Basically, they don't have a prayer…which brings me to the Italians.

The Italians have a dynasty in the Vatican. The Italians have two popefuls in the first round of the Sweet Sistine. Look for both of them to win in the European Division and then face off against each other in the next round. It's a virtual lock that one of those Italians will make it to the finals.

Where will the upsets come from?

The smart money is on Africa and South America.

Seven of the Sweet Sistine popefuls call South America and Africa home. They have exploded on the scene and have big numbers behind them.

But, I think the one to watch is Luis Antonio Tagle, out of the Phillipines. He is not very well known, but he is good.

The South Americans and Africans could tire themselves out in the early rounds. There's a shortage of priests in the Philippines, on any given Sunday, priests will say up to nine masses which is the kind of stamina that pays off in the championship.

When the dust settles, look for Luis Antonia Tagle to be wearing the coveted red shoes.

So what do the brackets look like?

Head to Religion News Service.

I'll see you in Rome.

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