What Nevada baseball must do to make the Mountain West Tournament

Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson and the Wolf Pack have no margin for error to make the Mountain West Tournament, but the odds are better than you think. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

One thing we know for sure: The Nevada Wolf Pack will host this year's Mountain West baseball tournament.

One thing we don't know: Whether the Wolf Pack will actually play in the event.

Only the top four teams in the seven-team MW qualify for the conference tournament, which will send its winner to the NCAA Regional, where Nevada hasn't been since 2000. And after getting swept at home by Fresno State last week, the Wolf Pack's odds of playing in the MW Tournament appear slim, although Nevada hasn't been mathematically eliminated. Here's a look at the MW standings as the Wolf Pack plays its final conference games of the year, a three-game series at San Jose State starting Friday.

MW standings

1. Fresno State, 15-7-1

2. San Diego State, 14-9

3t. UNLV, 12-12

3t. San Jose State, 12-12

5. Air Force, 10-13

6. Nevada, 11-16

7. New Mexico, 8-13-1

So, Nevada is 2.5 games behind the qualification cut line with just three MW games left on its schedule. Typically, that would be a dire situation. But it's not all bad for Nevada, which has a decent shot of making the MW Tournament if a couple of things fall its way. Here's a look at what must happen over the next two weekends for Nevada to make the MW Tournament.

* Let's assume Fresno State and San Diego State are already in the event and New Mexico is out. That's a fair assumption.

* That leaves UNLV, San Jose State, Air Force and Nevada for two tournament spots. It will be almost impossible for Nevada to catch UNLV, which owns the tiebreaker over the Wolf Pack (better record against Fresno State). For Nevada to jump UNLV, it would have to: (a) sweep SJSU this weekend and (b) have UNLV go 1-5 or worse over its final six games. That's unlikely. So, we can tentatively put UNLV in the field, too.

* That leaves San Jose State, Nevada and Air Force battling for the final spot. For Nevada to jump both, it must: (a) sweep San Jose State, which would put it at 14-16 in MW games and (b) have SJSU win one or two of its three games in its final series at Air Force but not sweep the Falcons. A SJSU sweep in Colorado Springs would put the Spartans at 15-15 in the MW, which would clinch the final spot over Nevada.

But SJSU winning two out of three would put Nevada at 14-16 in MW games; SJSU at 14-16 in MW games; and Air Force at 11-15. Nevada would own the tiebreaker over SJSU given their hypothetical sweep this weekend. And the Wolf Pack also would best Air Force, which is in an odd situation because the Falcons have had four MW games canceled (two due to weather and two due to a New Mexico player being shot to death during their series last weekend). Nevada's hypothetical 14-16 record would give the Wolf Pack a 46.7 winning percent in conference, which would be better than Air Force's 42.3 winning percent in the above scenario. Even if Air Force took two out of three against SJSU, the Falcons win percentage would only rise to 46.2 percent, which wouldn't pass Nevada.

So while it seems unlikely for Nevada to qualify for the MW Tournament at first glance, there is a solid path: Just sweep SJSU and avoid SJSU or Air Force sweeping each other in their series May 16-18. Can Nevada sweep SJSU? The Spartans aren't what you call "a good baseball team." SJSU is 1-13 in its last 14 games with just one win since April 13. Nevada hasn't played great ball, either. It has lost four in a row and is 2-6 since beating No. 2 Oregon State on back-to-back days in late April. But if Nevada plays well this weekend and secures a sweep, it has a pretty good chance of playing in the MW Tournament, after all. There's just no margin for error anymore.

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