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MAC Tournament bracket 2017: Akron enters as the team to beat

It’s almost time for tournament #MACtion.

NCAA Basketball: Akron at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips were the preseason favorites in the MAC and they followed through on those expectations. In fact, the Zips never fell out of first place, cruising out to 12-1 start in conference play.

However, the Zips have been snapped back to reality over the final few weeks of the regular season. Akron closed the regular season by dropping three of its final five games, including contests against Bowling Green and Miami, who were at the bottom of the conference standings.

While Akron maintained first place and were awarded with the top seed in the MAC Tournament, the door was opened for challengers. At the conclusion of Friday night’s regular-season-ending action, four teams were tied with 11-7 conference records and all four could present a challenge in the conference tournament. Ohio, Buffalo, and Ball State were all awarded first round byes. Western Michigan also finished in the four-way tie, but ended up as the 5 seed once the tiebreakers were resolved.

But in the seven times Akron faced one of those four teams, its only loss came Feb. 4 at Ohio. Even after losing star Antonio Campbell for the season, the Bobcats remained competitive and were able to beat Akron head to head. Ohio enters the MAC Tournament as the 2 seed and is likely the Zips’ biggest threat.

As far as the bracket is concerned, the first round will be played on Monday, March 6, on the campuses of the higher seeds. That means Western Michigan, Kent State, Toledo, and Eastern Michigan will all get home games.

The winners of Monday night’s games meet the top four seeds, who receive byes, on Thursday, March 9. The final three rounds of the tournament will be played in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena. The semifinals will be on Friday with the championship game Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

In terms of television/streaming coverage, the quarterfinals will be on ESPN3, the semifinals on CBS Sports Network, and the finals on ESPN2.

Here is a look at the bracket: