BERKELEY -- The Cal men's golf team, seeded No. 1 for the NCAA championships that begin Tuesday in suburban Atlanta, is the overwhelming favorite to win its second title in nine years.

But is there a special legacy awaiting the Golden Bears if they can walk away with the crown next Sunday?

Could they be considered the greatest collegiate golf team ever?

Junior Michael Weaver said winning next week "would put an exclamation point" on the Bears' season. "There wouldn't be any doubt we're the best team they've ever seen."

Perhaps it's not that clear-cut, but the growing mountain of evidence is compelling:

  • The Bears' 11 tournament victories eclipsed the unofficial NCAA "modern-era" record of 10 since regional qualifying was added in 1988.

  • Their record against NCAA Division I opponents in 13 tournaments is a combined 173-3-1, and they won their 11 titles by an average margin of 14.72 strokes.

  • In the two tournaments they didn't win, the Bears finished second and third, falling short by a total of four strokes.

  • All five Cal golfers have won at least once tournament title, topped by sophomore Michael Kim's four victories.

    "I kind of shake my head, like you've got to be kidding me," Steve Desimone, in his 34th year as Cal's coach, said of his team's performance.

    Of course, the job is not finished.

    "We've got a chance to go win a tournament that matters the most," Weaver said.

    Few will be surprised if Cal wins.

    Conrad Ray, who played on Stanford's 1994 NCAA championship team alongside Tiger Woods and coached the Cardinal to the 2007 title, said, "They have to be right up there for consideration with the best ever, for sure. The record speaks for itself."

    Washington coach Matt Thurmond, after the Bears' win at the Pac-12 tournament, tweeted, "Best team by far in my 20 yrs of college golf."

    But this is the 75th NCAA golf championship, and that covers a lot of ground.

    Mike Holder, who coached Oklahoma State to eight national titles before becoming the Cowboys' athletic director, said comparing different eras is impossible.

    "Cal is having a great year," Holder told this newspaper, "and it will be impressive if they can win it all."

    But Holder noted what may have been his two best teams -- in 1977 and 1986 -- came up short at the NCAAs.

    "Lots of pressure and high expectations to overcome," he said, referring to the task facing the Bears.

    Ray agrees there are multiple variables.

    "If you have half a bad day, things really change. Match play is a funny animal," he said. "And there can be weather issues -- especially in Atlanta."

    There have been other juggernauts in college golf, including Houston, which has won 16 NCAA titles and posted undefeated (7-0) seasons in 1958 and 1962.

    Wake Forest, featuring Curtis Strange and Jay Haas, won the NCAA tournament by 33 shots in 1975. A year later, five different Demon Deacons won individual tournament titles, but Wake could not secure a third straight NCAA team title.

    In 1982, UCLA won 13 tournaments (in 20 outings) but did not take home the NCAA prize.

    The competition at Capital City Club includes defending champion Texas and second-seeded Alabama, which knocked off Cal in the semifinals last year. Saint Mary's is seeded 21st among the 30 teams.

    If the Bears don't win, Kim suggested it won't be the result of pressure.

    "You hear professional athletes talking about just another day at the office, whether it's the Super Bowl or whatever," Kim said. "This is the Super Bowl for college golf."

    Desimone understands the season's final chapter will determine the Bears' place in history.

    "We are in the discussion ... I wouldn't want to go much further than that," he said. "If it turns out that second trophy is ours, we could certainly stake a claim that we're one of the best ever. Maybe the best ever."