LOS ANGELES -- Colorado doesn't care about bubbles. It doesn't care about odds. It doesn't even care about being the new kids and throwing the Pac-12 establishment for a loop by refusing to wait its turn.
It just cares about winning that next game.
That's been good enough for the No. 6-seeded Buffaloes, who advanced to the Pac-12 tournament title game Friday with their third victory in three nights, taking out No. 2 California, 70-59. The Buffaloes will face No. 4 seed Arizona at 6 p.m. Saturday at Staples Center with an NCAA tournament berth on the line.
But don't expect them to talk about bubbles between now and then, as the word “bubble” is almost considered vulgar in Boulder.
“We don't discuss bubbles, we don't talk about them at all,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “After what these kids went through last year, we refuse to discuss that word. We came here on a mission and it has nothing to do with bubbles.”
You can't blame the Buffaloes for being sore about the b-word, as Colorado was left at the altar last season on Selection Sunday despite a 21-13 overall record and a .500 mark in the respected Big 12. But even mentioning the bubble, or bursting other team's bubbles -- like the Buffaloes did when they defeated Oregon in the quarterfinals on Thursday -- brings angst.
“We aren't worried about that. We are worried about winning the [Pac-12] tournament,” Colorado guard Carlon Brown said. “It's been a long time since a Colorado team has been in a title game, so that's something we want to do.”
The Buffaloes haven't gone through the Pac-12 freshman initiation that fellow new guy Utah has endured this season, as Colorado has built a 22-11 record despite being picked to finish near the bottom of the conference. Those preseason prognostications have been a point of motivation for CU all year, sometimes too much so.
“Yeah, it's motivated these guys,” Boyle said. “We've talked about it. I've probably beat it over the head a little bit too much, but anytime I feel like we're letting down a little bit or we need a good practice I just throw it out there.”
The Buffs didn't let down on defense, which is fitting for a team that's second in the conference in that category. Colorado forced 17 Golden Bears turnovers to 13 assists, with 11 of those turnovers coming in the first half, and limited Cal to 42.9 percent shooting in the game. One stretch in particular where the Buffaloes locked down was from the 8:10 mark of the second half to the 3:48 mark, as they held Cal scoreless while scoring 10 consecutive points, turning a tight 49-46 game into a decisive 59-46 advantage.
Colorado will be facing another stout defensive team in the championship game, as Arizona is the only other team that betters the Buffs in the Pac-12 defensive statistics.
“I think it's appropriate that you have the two best defensive basketball teams playing for the championship,” Boyle said. “They're No. 1 in field goal percentage defense. We're No. 2. It's a quick turnaround and we are ready to go.”
Colorado has a chance to put its new conference on its ear if it wins the conference title in its first season in the Pac-12. But instead of being mad at its precociousness, the Pac-12 might want to give Colorado a pat on the back, as its victory on Friday will allow the conference to avoid the possibility of being a one-bid league, as California is virtually assured of an at-large bid.
But that's another aspect of its run that Colorado refused to think about. There's only one goal that matters, which is qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
“I want these guys to make it,” said Brown, who qualified for the tournament when he played for Utah in 2009. “I've already been there but I want the rest of these guys to get there too.”