If you're ranked No. 12 in the nation, you ought to be a contender to win a conference title.
The Colorado women's basketball team boasts that ranking and believes it's capable. Yet there might be some around the nation whose eyebrows rise at the idea of the Buffs capturing the Pac-12 regular-season title over the next nine weeks.
The Buffs will have a solid of idea where how they stack up after the first two weeks of conference play. They're on the road at Southern Cal Friday (9 p.m. Pac-12 Network) and at UCLA on Sunday night. They will play host to Cal and perennial Pac-12 leader Stanford next week at the Coors Events Center.
Coach Linda Lappe inherited a program four years ago that was a considerable distance from competing for conference championships whether they were in the Big 12 Conference of the Pac-12. She has covered much of that ground in a short time and she believes her program is close to reaching the top of the Pac-12 heap.
"We're preparing every day to have a shot," Lappe said. "It's one of those things where when you start to become a better team, I'm sure there are probably four or five teams that think they can win the Pac-12 and we're no different.
"We've got to have that mindset and have that belief. If we don't, then why play, why go through the conference season?"
The Buffs emerged from non-conference play with a 10-1 record. Their only loss came on the road at No. 7 Louisville and the Buffs could easily have won that game with better free throw shooting and execution.
Point guard Lexy Kresl's strong play in that new role has been, perhaps, the biggest development of the season to this point. Although she is still learning to play the point, she has been a steady producer adept at getting her teammates involved.
Kresl said the Buffs are in a good place mentally with the start of conference play arriving. They have gained confidence over the past two months that they're capable of competing with anyone.
"We talked a lot about sweeping weekends and sweeping trips," Kresl said. "So we really want to focus on playing our best our first away games and just setting the tone for the conference season."
Lappe said she feels confident a summer trip to Italy and the non-conference slate has prepared her team for the rigors of the conference play. The Buffs went on the road four times over the past two months and finished 3-1 on those trips.
"We've had to play in some tough environments on the road," Lappe said. "I think that's what has helped us the most. Playing at Wyoming, playing at New Mexico, playing at Louisville should help prepare you to go on the road (in the Pac-12)."
The Buffs will encounter an athletic USC team that likes to pressure defensively, but hasn't shot the ball particularly well during an 8-5 start to the season. The Trojans are coming off a big win over UCLA this week.
Lappe described USC point guard Ariya Crook and forward Cassie Harberts as "phenomenal" talents.
"Both those two really take over for them at times," Lappe said.
Crook has the ability to get hot and score in bunches. Lappe has challenged senior Brittany Wilson to stop that from happening.
The Buffs have won nine consecutive Pac-12 regular season games dating back to their last trip here in February. Lappe said the fact that the Buffs are now in their third year in the Pac-12 and many of her players have played in every venue in the league should help.
"It does for sure," Lappe said. "I think just understanding the arenas and what you're going to see when you walk in. It's not such a big deal any more, and just getting to know the teams, knowing the players, knowing the coaching styles.
"I feel more confident going in as a coach just kind of knowing what you're going to see and the tendencies you're going to see from each team even before you watch one film."