Seventh-seeded Rice (17-14, 8-8) and No. 10 East Carolina (14-15, 5-11) will get the party started in the Conference USA Tournament when they tip things off in Memphis at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The Owls haven't been the NCAA Tournament since 1970 and the enter the postseason with a winning record for the first time since the 2004-05 season. It's been a tremendous turnaround job for head coach Ben Braun, who took over a program that went 3-27 and was winless in conference play just four seasons ago. Though a four wins in four days run to the NCAA Tournament seems improbable, a win over ECU would put Rice in good shape for an NIT or CBI bid.
East Carolina had been 0-9 in the C-USA Tournament before winning back-to-back games a season ago. The Pirates lost their first six conference games this season before playing .500 basketball the rest of the way. That second stretch included a dominating 82-68 win over Rice back on Feb. 4. Led by junior forward Maurice Kemp's 14-point, 11-rebound performance, the Pirates bullied Rice in the paint for 40 minutes and cruised to the convincing victory.
The winner of this game will face second-seeded Southern Mississippi in a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday.