There have been times during Tony Benford’s second season as coach of North Texas when it looked like the Mean Green was about to break through.

UNT hammered Texas A&M by 20 on New Year’s Eve and strung four straight Conference USA wins in February.

Each high has been followed by a low in an inconsistent season for UNT, which is down to its last shot to make its first season in C-USA a memorable one this week during the conference tournament.

UNT (15-15) enters the 15-team event as the No. 10 seed and will face No. 15 Rice (7-22) in a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Haskins Center in El Paso.

The Mean Green will have to win five games in five days to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.

“This is a chance to put our struggles behind us,” senior guard Alzee Williams said. “Everyone is 0-0.”

UNT enters the tournament confident that it has a chance to make a run, largely because of the flashes of solid play it has shown.

The Mean Green toppled East Carolina, Florida International, Florida Atlantic and UT-San Antonio in its four-game conference winning streak. UNT has played well at other times, including hammering the Aggies, 61-41.

“We have enough depth to make a run,” Benford said. “It’s doable.”