LOS ANGELES -- Cal hopes the experts are right.
The Golden Bears lost 70-59 to Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals Friday night but expect to hear their name called Sunday when the NCAA tournament field is announced.
Nothing is certain, but Cal (24-9) entered the day with a strong No. 34 RPI computer rating -- easily the best of any Pac-12 team -- after its 77-71 quarterfinal win over Stanford on Thursday.
Coach Mike Montgomery said after that victory he believed the Bears were in good shape, and the online "bracketologists" seemed to agree.
"Did I have an epiphany that would change my thinking? No," Montgomery said. "What do you need to do: 24 wins, single-digit losses, we have a decent RPI ... what do we need to do?"
Until it's official, the Bears are likely to have a few anxious moments.
"I'd be nervous, win or lose today," freshman forward David Kravish said. "The fact is it's in someone else's hands. But we did what we needed to do to make the argument to get into the tournament."
Senior Jorge Gutierrez was in no mood to play prognosticator. "We don't know," he said. "We have to wait."
Colorado (22-11) will play in Saturday's 3:10 p.m. championship game against Arizona (23-10), which beat Oregon State 72-61 in the early semifinal.
The winner of the title game will earn the league's automatic NCAA bid; the loser likely will be left out of the field.
Cal trailed 49-46 after Gutierrez scored on a drive with 8:10 left, but his missed free throw triggered a 10-0 Colorado run. When Austin Dufault scored with 4:01 left, the Buffs led 59-46.
"We got stuck and the ball didn't move," Montgomery said of the 4-minute drought. "They did a really good job and got juiced up. They are a good defensive team. We just couldn't get open."
Allen Crabbe scored 18 points, including eight in the final 3:48, but said the Buffaloes once more were up to the challenge defensively. In three games between the teams, the Bears have averaged just 57.7 points against CU -- 15 under their season average.
"Every time we've played them we've only scored in the 50s," Crabbe said. "They do a good job of taking us out of what we do on offense. Got to give them credit."
Justin Cobbs added 15 points, and Gutierrez, held scoreless when Cal lost at Colorado on Feb. 26, had 10. Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson each scored 17 points for Colorado.
As was the case the night before against Stanford, the Bears were slow to start. Colorado jumped out to leads of 6-0, 12-2 and 15-4. The Buffaloes made six of their first nine shots, including three 3-pointers.
Colorado, playing its third game in three days and facing a must-win scenario in terms of its NCAA hopes, played loose and aggressive to start the game. The Bears were almost too loose -- in contrast to their tight first-half posture against Stanford.
"I think we weren't ready to play, and they were," Gutierrez said.
Montgomery didn't argue the notion but was unhappy about what has become something of a mantra after Cal defeats.
"To be honest, I'm kind of tired of hearing that. What are we doing?" he said. "How can you come out and not be ready? Obviously, we looked like we weren't ready. We get down 12-2, it looked like we were at a walk in the park."
After their opening doze, the Bears were the better team for most of the final 15:21 of the half, outscoring CU 23-13 to pull within 28-27 at the break.
But once more, turnovers hurt the Bears. After coughing up 15 in the first half against Stanford, they had 11 more, which Colorado transformed into 12 points. By game's end, the total was 17.
"You can't keep up when you turn the ball over that many times," Gutierrez said.
Arizona 72, Oregon State 61: Kyle Fogg scored 22 points and Arizona rallied with a big run after halftime to beat Oregon State (19-14), sending the Wildcats into the championship game.