MAC basketball tournament 2013 schedule and bracket: Top seeds Akron, Ohio enter play

Gregory Shamus

After receiving double byes through to the semifinals, Zeke Marshall's Akron Zips and D.J. Cooper's Ohio Bobcats enter the fray in Cleveland, playing their first games Friday night.

After three days of play, the top four teams in the MAC will fight for the conference's auto-bid, thanks to chalk and the entrance of top seeds Akron and Ohio after they received byes.

The Zips and Bobcats got to rest while the other nine teams in the conference battled to reach the semis, with third- and fourth-seeded Kent State and Western Michigan each winning their first games on Wednesday. Considering the MAC wasn't one of the better leagues in the country - Ken Pomeroy's stats ranked the MAC No. 15 out of 32 - this is a one-bid league, so whoever wins the next two games is going dancing while everybody else sits at home.

Here's a look at Friday night's semifinal games:

6:30 p.m., ESPN3, No. 4 Kent State (20-12, 9-7, Kenpom No. 116) vs. Akron (24-6, 14-2, Kenpom ranking 58)

Zeke Marshall and the top-seeded Zips are technically the best squad in the conference, but this isn't a great scenario for them. For starters, Alex Abreu, who led the way with 6.0 assists per game, is out after a recent marijuana suspension, leaving the team without one of its most important players. And it's against Kent State, a team they just played on March 8 and lost, as they sputtered without Abreu despite 14 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks from Marshall. Marshall, a 7-footer who is among the best shot-blockers in the nation with a 13.8 block percentage, will be matched up against the Golden Flashes' Chris Evans, a 6'8 forward who scored 25 points in their 70-68 quarterfinal win against Buffalo.

9 p.m., ESPN3: No. 3 Western Michigan (20-11, 10-6, Kenpom ranking 148) vs. No. 2 Ohio (23-8, 14-2, Kenpom ranking 76)

They haven't played a game in the tournament yet, but the Bobcats are just two games away from getting back to the NCAA Tournament, where they reached the Sweet 16 last year. They still have D.J. Cooper, who leads the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game and is third in the nation with an assist rate of 44.8, They're ballhawks, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 25.9 percent of opposing possessions. But the Broncos gave them trouble in the only regular season matchup, with Ohio winning 61-59.

Updated bracket

Friday, March 16

6:30 p.m.: No. 4 Kent State vs. No. 1 Akron

9 p.m.: No. 3 Western Michigan vs. No. 2 Ohio

Saturday, March 17

Championship game, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

More in College Basketball:

Your Bracketology update

The life and death of Earl Badu

Full coverage of the ACC tournament

Full coverage of the Big East tournament

Full coverage of the Big Ten tournament

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