FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Let the madness begin. The dream that started in Canada in August gets a chance to come true this week. Win three games and the Lumberjacks are going dancing into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.
The first step towards the Big Sky Tournament Championship starts Saturday when the Lumberjacks host Montana State in the quarterfinal round of the Banner Health North Colorado Medical Center Men's Basketball Big Sky Championship at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
"It is an unbelievable part of the season," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "Maybe this is a cliché. The season is broken into three parts. There is the non-conference season. There is the conference season when the intensity picks up and games mean something. The third season is the madness. It is the most exciting part and it is the cruelest part. You either win and advance or lose and go home."
NAU is making its 20th Big Sky Championship appearance and 10th in 12 years under Head Coach Mike Adras. The Lumberjacks are hosting a home postseason game for the first time since the 2006 season when the Lumberjacks hosted the Big Sky Conference Tournament and an NIT game.
"The team that is capable of playing their best for 40 minutes night in and night out is going to be the team that continues to advance as this month moves on," said Adras."
The Lumberjacks bring a six-game home-court winning streak into the matchup and are 11-1 at home this season, the second-best single-season winning percentage in school history. NAU's 18 wins are the most since 2007-08 (21) and fifth season under Adras with 18 or more wins.
NAU leads the all-time series 45-41 with Montana State. NAU holds a 28-12 advantage in Flagstaff and have won nine straight overall against the Bobcats. The two schools have split the last eight meetings with the home team winning each time.
"They have won two of their last three ball games," said Adras of Montana State. "They are depending on their big seniors and I expect them to be no different when they get here Saturday.'
Cameron Jones and Shane Johannsen will be playing in their third conference tournament. They advanced to the championship game in 2008, losing to Portland State, and were defeated by Montana in the quarterfinal round in 2010. Jones scored 21 points in the loss the Griz. Stallon Saldivar, Gabe Rogers, DeAngelo Jones, Julian Oluboyi, Josh Lepley, Michale Dunn and Luis Flores all saw action in the road game at Montana in 2010.
The experience across the roster should be a benefit.
"I hope so," said Adras. "We got bounced so fast last year our madness ended before it begun. Hopefully that is motivation for our guys to step up and get things done."
Saturday's game can be seen on Fox College Sports Pacific and the NAU Network on Dish Network Channel 9411. Fans can listen to the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 The Big Talker and on the internet at www.bigtalkerradio.com. The game is also available on Big Sky Television.
Tickets are available for the Big Sky Quarterfinal game. Ticket prices are $15 for a reserved seat and $50 for courtside. Season ticket holder prices will be $12 for reserved seats and $40 for the courtside seats. Season ticket holders can secure their tickets by calling the NAU Athletics department at 928-523-5353, while the general public can purchase seats at the Central Ticket Office at the University Union on campus. Tickets are on sale at the Central Ticket Office daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by calling 928-523-5661.
Fans can also purchase tickets online at http://nau.ticketforce.com/.
A generous donation from a former NAU basketball player has been made to purchase 250 tickets for Northern Arizona University students to attend the Big Sky Tournament game Saturday night at the Rolle Activity Center.
The first 250 students to show-up Saturday for the NAU men's quarterfinal game against Montana State will get in FREE. Students must show their student ID to the table inside Rolle Activity Center entrance at the game. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
For students who have already purchased tickets, the first 250 will be refunded at the student ticket table.
Men's Basketball Big Sky Championship
Saturday, March 5
Quarterfinals (at No. 3 and No. 4 seeds)
No. 6 Eastern Washington at No. 3 Weber State, 7:35 p.m.
No. 5 Montana State at No. 4 Northern Arizona , 6:35 p.m.
TV: (NAU TV, Fox College Sports Pacific)
At Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion
Tuesday, March 8 (at regular-season champ)
Semifinals (Televised by Altitude)
No. 2 Montana vs. Highest Remaining Seed, 5:30 p.m.
No. 1 Northern Colorado vs. Lowest Remaining Seed, 8 p.m. .
Wednesday, March 9
Championship, 7 p.m. MST (ESPN2)
All times Mountain/Subject to Change