The Mountain West usually takes care of its 40-win baseball teams.
The Nevada Wolf Pack, which finished with a 41-15 record, this past week became just the second 40-win team in the history of the Mountain West to be left out of the NCAA regionals. The only other time it happened was in 2002 when the San Diego State Aztecs, which finished with a record of 43-23 for coach Jim Dietz, were left out.
The Mountain West, which has been in existence for 16 baseball seasons (2000-15), has produced 12 teams that have won 40 or more games in a season, including this season when both the Wolf Pack and San Diego State (40-21) reached the magical mark. The NCAA has invited 10 of those dozen teams to its regionals: UNLV in 2003, TCU six times from 2007-12 and San Diego State three times, in 2009, 2014 and 2015.
Half of the dozen 40-win teams from the Mountain West made it easy on the NCAA by also winning the conference tournament and automatic regional bid that comes with it (UNLV in 2003, TCU in 2007, 2008, 2010 and San Diego State in 2014 and 2015). But the 2002 Aztecs and 2015 Wolf Pack are the only 40-win teams from the Mountain West left out of the regionals that also didn’t win the conference tournament. The other four teams that won 40 or more games and also lost the tournament all received a NCAA regional at-large bid: TCU in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and San Diego State in 2009.
The 2002 Aztecs, like the 2015 Wolf Pack, won the Mountain West regular season title.
The Wolf Pack this season then lost its first two tournament games in a span of less than 24 hours to become the first Mountain West No. 1 seed in history to not win at least one tournament game.
The 2002 Aztecs, though, had a very successful conference tournament experience. The 2002 Aztecs (which won two of three games against the Wolf Pack that season, by the way) won its first three Mountain West tournament games to reach the tournament championship game undefeated. The Aztecs, though, then lost twice to BYU on the final day to lose the tournament title and the automatic regional bid. The Aztecs that season had beaten BYU seven consecutive times without a loss heading into that fateful final day of the tournament. BYU, which finished third in the Mountain West in the regular season with a 15-14 league record, earned the Mountain West’s only regional spot in 2002 and ended up with a 31-31 overall record.
The Wolf Pack this season cruised to the regular season Mountain West title with a 22-7 league record. The Pack, though, lost 14-4 to New Mexico and 9-7 to San Diego State in the tournament. The Pack had a record of 8-1 against New Mexico and San Diego State combined going into the tournament.
Although the Wolf Pack became the first No. 1 seed from the Mountain West to go winless in the conference tournament, it did not became the first host team to go winless. That happened four times before, in 2000 (UNLV), 2003 (New Mexico), 2010 (San Diego State) and 2012 (UNLV). Those four teams, like the Pack this year, also didn’t get an at-large regional bid. UNLV was 24-33 in 2000 and 26-31 in 2012, New Mexico was 34-26 in 2003 and San Diego State was 28-28 in 2010.
San Diego State is the only Mountain West team to go to the regionals this year. This is the first season that the Mountain West has not sent at least two teams to the regionals since 2008 when TCU was the only team to go. The league sent just one team to the regionals from 2001-08 (the first-year conference did not have an automatic bid in 2000). The only time the conference has sent as many as three to the regional was 2009 when San Diego State, Utah and TCU all went.