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Putting the Nevada golf team's third straight NCAA Regional berth into perspective

Trey Davis
Trey Davis and the Nevada Wolf Pack are headed to an NCAA Regional. (Nick Beaton/Nevada athletics)

There are many ways to measure the on-field success of a college program, including winning percentage, conference championships, all-league honors, among other metrics. But perhaps the best measure is how may times that team has made it to the NCAA Tournament. And when you use that number, there's no better Wolf Pack program over the decades than men's golf.

The Nevada men's golf team will compete in its 14th NCAA Tournament starting Monday when it plays at the 14-team Albuquerque Regional at UNM South Championship Course. Those 14 NCAA Tournament berths are the most of any Wolf Pack program by a substantial margin.

Using NCAA Tournament berths isn't a perfect of success. For starters, the size of the fields aren't uniform. In golf, 81 teams make the national tournament, whereas men's basketball (68), women's basketball (64) baseball (64), softball (64), women's soccer (64), tennis (64) and volleyball (64) sit in the 60s. Cross country (31) and rifle (eight) have even smaller fields. But, generally speaking, NCAA Tournament appearances are a good indicator of strength.

Here is how many NCAA tournaments each active Wolf Pack program has qualified for in its history. We're not including shuttered programs like skiing (36 appearances, including 17 top 10s) or rifle (eight berths). And swimming and diving and well as track and field don't qualify as teams to the national level. They instead qualify individuals who accrue points in the final team standings, so those teams are not included.

Wolf Pack's NCAA Tournament berths

1. Men’s golf, 14 (last in 2021)

2. Men’s basketball, 9 (last in 2019)

3. Volleyball, 5 (last in 2005)

4. Baseball, 4 (last in 2000)

5. Softball, 3 (last in 2009)

6. Women’s golf, 2 (last in 2003)

7. Women’s soccer, 1 (last in 2006)

8t. Men’s tennis, women’s tennis, women’s cross country, men's cross country, women's basketball

Since Nevada moved into the Mountain West in 2012, only two of its programs have made the NCAA Tournament, those being men's basketball and men's golf, both doing so three times each. The men's golf team has qualified for three straight NCAA Regionals, only missing in 2020 because the national tournament wasn't held due to COVID-19. Nevada ranks 63rd in the nation, per the GolfStat team rankings, and is the No. 10 seed out of 14 teams in Albuquerque, a region stacked with the nation's No. 1 team (Oklahoma), the defending national champs (Stanford) and three other top-20 teams (Arizona State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech).

Wolf Pack coach Jacob Wilner, in his 11th season as the program's head coach, said it's always a nice bonus making the NCAA Tournament.

"I wouldn't say it's expected, but it's definitely something we try and focus on and prepare for," Wilner said. "Last year, we probably would have gotten the nod, too, so it could have been four years in a row. We don't take it for granted. We actually have underachieved a little bit this year because I think we're that talented. It came down to being a little bit closer to get in, but we were happy to see our name pop up real quick saying we were going to Albuquerque, and our guys are excited to compete."

Nevada has reached three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time since qualifying for five in a row from 1989-93. The Wolf Pack has reached the final stage of the tournament, the national championships, in 1989, 1990 and 2006. To do so this season, it must finish in the top five of its Regional, which won't be easy given the stacked field. Nevada came close to getting to nationals two years ago, missing by a handful of strokes.

"We were close and it pretty much came down to the last hole in Georgia two years ago," Wilner said. "That's been a goal. We try not to talk too much about regionals, talk too much about nationals. At the end of the day, we're not going to do anything different this week. We're going to get there at the same time we normally do. Everything is going to be the same. I know it's a special event, but we're just going to have our practice round and we'll have a conversation about the golf course and go out and play golf. Now's not the time to change the wheel. The guys know that."

Nevada's active athletic programs have made the NCAA Tournament as a team only 38 times, so men's golf accounts for almost 37 percent of those berths. While you could argue Nevada is a basketball school, a football school or even a swimming school, don't forget about men's golf.

You can watch Jacob Wilner's full NSN Daily interview below.


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