For the third consecutive year, the 2008 National Championships will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a city of hopes; It’s a city of dreams; It’s a city that was built on taking a gamble in order to strike it rich. With that in mind, what better atmosphere is there for eight of the world’s best Halo 3 teams to battle it out for $280,000 in cold hard cash? We certainly can’t think of any.

This year’s National Championships represent a number of things: it’s the most meaningful event of 2008, it’s arguably the most pivotal event of the competitors’ professional gaming careers, and it’s undoubtedly the biggest event in Major League Gaming’s history. For the 2008 Pro Circuit’s Top 8 teams, it’s time to double-down, ante-up, and go all-in for the right to call themselves the best Halo 3 team in the world.

Str8 Rippin will be aiming to cement their place in MLG history.

With no shortage of excitement, drama, and uncertainty from beginning to end, the 2008 Season has provided one of the best times to be a fan of Major League Gaming. For the competitors, now is the time to put all of the external factors of the past to rest and focus on what has gotten them up to this point in the first place – the game itself.

Now let’s take a piece of our own advice and take a look at the definite and potential matches that will occur in Las Vegas this weekend. As you may know, for the purpose of speculation we will take on the assumption of no major upsets occurring based on the current seeds. This will allow us to take a much deeper look into the later parts of the bracket, as well as the match-ups that may occur at that point.

First up is our number one seed, Str8 Rippin. After trailing in the wake of teams such as Final Boss and Carbon in past seasons, Tsquared and his carefully crafted set of teammates have taken the Pro Circuit by storm in 2008. In light of this fact, Tsquared firmly believes that this is his year to take over the spotlight – and aside from winning the National Championship, that has already occurred.

Str8 Rippin’s very first match will be against our MLG Dallas Open Playoff winners, Legendz. Assuming they breeze through this match, they’ll likely be pitted against sibling duo Roy and Lunchbox in Instinct – a team who has failed to give Str8 much trouble thus far in 2008. At this point, Str8 would find themselves in the Winners Bracket Finals, where they could take on either Triggers Down or Final Boss. The community predictions bracket chose Str8 to go on to defeat Final Boss in a 3-1 margin, but you can be sure that Triggers Down will have something to say about that.

Will Triggers Down’s momentum propel them to the top once again?

The next team we’ll take a look at is our reigning champions, Triggers Down. Fresh off of their second total victory of the season, TD will be matched up against Karma’s former team, Carbon, in round one. With a win, their next match could end up being the most explosive of Winners Bracket Round 2, as they take on Final Boss. According to the Community Predictions Bracket though, Final Boss is expected to narrowly defeat TD, in what was the closest result throughout the predictions– 51% to 49% in favor of FB. If this were to happen, it would probably result in a TD vs. Instinct Losers Bracket Semi-Finals.

Continuing the trend, we’ll now move on to Final Boss. Our 2007 National Champions have served as an X-factor of sorts throughout Halo 3’s debut season. Now heading into the final event, that feeling is amplified even more so. Long-term history makes it hard to doubt their abilities. Meanwhile, short-term history makes it hard to predict their finish. It’s quite the predicament with Final Boss, and we can’t wait to see the end result.

Holding the third seed translates into Final Boss and Ambush squaring away in round one. Moving on will likely mean slugging it out with our Dallas champions, Triggers Down. Surpassing this momentous obstacle would grant them access into the Winners Bracket Finals against Str8 Rippin, where if they were to lose, they would drop into the Losers Bracket Finals against the winner of Instinct and Triggers Down. This is the beauty of the National Championships; regardless of route, no team will have an easy time making it into that final match of the season.

Last on our list of in-depth bracket break-downs is Instinct. The Roy and Lunchbox duo, along with Walshy and Soviet have found mixed results since their commencement before MLG Toronto. The foursome walked away with a runner-up placing in their very first event together, and then proceeded to place outside of the Top 4 in their very next outing. Although puzzling, this could spell either good or bad things for Instinct. However, when Instinct’s recent LAN is taken into consideration, where they went on to defeat TD in overall games, all signs point towards the good.

Up first for Instinct is the 5th seeded Classic, a team that got the better of them in very first round of MLG Dallas. If they are to advance, they’ll have their work cut out for them against Str8 Rippin in Winners Bracket Round 2. Upsetting Str8 Rippin will land them in the Winners Bracket Finals. Meanwhile, a loss would send them into Losers Bracket Round 2, most likely against Ambush or Carbon. From there, it’s anyone guess. The community seems to believe Instinct will topple Triggers Down in the Losers Bracket Semis, but it’s hard to bet against the defending champs.