The SMS Bears will try to make the best of their first trip to the post season since qualifying for the NIT in 2000. That was head coach Barry Hinson’s first year. Since then, the Bears have been on the outside looking in. Tonight they’ll try to stay in the inside for a while, as they host Rice University at the Hammons Student Center.

The Bears are playing an opening round game, which are designated play-in games for 16 teams. With a win they’ll advance to the NIT’s first-round. Teams who have to play opening round games have to win six times to claim the NIT title. The other 24 teams only have to win five times.

Rice enters tonight’s game with a 20-11 record and they have won six of their last seven contests. They’re led by senior forward Michael Harris, who averages 20.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He helped the Owls to a 20-11 record and a 12-6 mark in the WAC. Rice has a record of 5-7 on the road this season. The Bears, who are 18-12 on the year, were 12-3 at the Hammons Student Center.