The sun was shining Monday in Flagstaff, and Mike Adras doesn't want to think what Thursday could be like if the weather is stormy.
"Don't jinx me," said the NAU basketball coach, whose team won't board an airplane until nearly four hours before a McKale Center tipoff with Arizona. "I don't know what the backup plan would be."
Thanks to scheduling issues that forced NAU and Arizona to play during finals week, and because of Adras' passion to continue the yearly in-state series, the Lumberjacks are planning to hustle south after seven of their players take final exams Thursday. The last player won't finish until about 1 p.m. and the flight doesn't leave until 3.
Tipoff is at 7:30.
"We're not even going to land until 4 and be at McKale around 5," Adras said. "Maybe we'll get a little snack in them around 5:30, then start getting ready to play."
It's an extreme travel plan even for Adras, who for years has often bucked the conventional wisdom that college teams need to arrive the day before a game, thus leaving a cushion for any travel problems, then retreat to a local hotel and its catered dining.
The Lumberjacks have often arrived in Tucson the day of the game, and once even held a pre-game meal in a booster's RV outside McKale.
"The kids roll with it," Adras said. "It's a good group. I don't think they'll have a problem with any mode of travel."
And if weather does make it somehow impossible to fly out of Flagstaff on Thursday afternoon, Adras said after giving it some thought, the Lumberjacks would probably bus to a lower-elevation site such as Sedona or Prescott and fly from there.
Of course, that might mean they wouldn't show up until after the fans do.
But once they do arrive, NAU guard Cameron Jones said, staying focused won't be a problem.
"At U of A, everybody will be ready to play (because of) their crowd," Jones said. "We've done it before. We just have to be ready whether we're taking a bus, flying or coming in the same day. Our coach tells us to be ready for anything."
Because scheduling conflicts forced the Lumberjacks to play the game on Thursday during finals week, when Adras said he's discouraged from scheduling any games, Arizona kicked in an extra $10,000 to help pay for NAU's charter flight.
The Lumberjacks will receive an $85,000 guarantee, the same rate most teams that must fly into Tucson receive, instead of the $75,000 they would have received as a bus visitor.
"We had date issues, and we asked him to take it on the chin," UA associate AD Ryan Hansen said. "As a sister school with the same board of regents, we didn't think it would look good if we strong-armed them."
Arizona probably could have strong-armed Adras, who has eagerly sought annual games against the Wildcats and has been flexible with his scheduling. This time, he and UA coach Sean Miller had agreed to play the game shortly after Christmas, but NAU was forced to pull out of that because of a Big Sky Conference scheduling change.
Adras said he wanted to play the game Friday, after finals were over, but Miller hesitated because the Wildcats will leave Saturday to play a game Sunday at North Carolina State.
So Thursday it was, though Adras quickly realized there might not be enough time for a bus ride after finals ended Thursday.
"I told Sean, 'Hey I don't know if I can do this,'" Adras said. "I told him I can look to see what's projected and then maybe we'll charter. Then they gave us $10,000 more to help on expenses, and that was nice on their part. There were no other options."
Holiday packs selling
Arizona has sold about 1,200 of the four-game "Holiday Pack" series tickets that will begin Thursday, which should help fill a chunk of the 2,300-seat student section that would otherwise be mostly bare during winter break.
UA senior associate AD James Francis said the school has sold about 500 regular Holiday Packs, plus another 636 half-price Holiday Packs during its "Black Friday" sale on Nov. 26. It has also sold 71 two-game Holiday Packs.
"We're starting to get the crowds to come back out," Francis said. "Hopefully over the holiday, with football being done, we'll start to see more people coming in to fill seats."
Washington State's Klay Thompson was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week on Monday after scoring 24 points against Gonzaga.
Not surprisingly, the Mountain West Conference gave its weekly award to BYU's Jimmer Fredette, who had 33 points and nine rebounds against the Wildcats on Saturday in Salt Lake City.
• Who: NAU at Arizona
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ, Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM