If things are tough all over, they must be toughest in the city of Las Vegas, state of Nevada, where hyped-up boosters of the UNLV basketball team and bookies alike must be spitting nails: it's against the law in that wide-open gambling state to bet on (or against) Nevada teams.

"It's an old, old law obviously designed to curtail betting on amateur athletics and this opportunity for corruption is lessened," explained chairman Philip Hannifin of the Nevada Gambling Control Board. "A year ago I sent a letter to the various bookmakers and again called this to their attention . . . We wouldn't want even a hint of anything wrong when these teams are doing so well nationally. We don't want any kind of headlines about improperties.

Asked (in Carson City) whether he expected the law to stop all betting in the Silver State on UNLV in the NCAAs, Hannifin just laughed . . .

No wonder Jimmy the Greek eschewshis usual Vegas dateline in favor of Atlanta when he posts his line on Saturday's semis at the Omni: North Carolina by 2 points over UNLV, Marquette by 2 over UNCO . . . Expert opinion, cont'd Billy Packer, the peripatetic pundit of the magic lantern, sized up the four regionals before the first round. Let's play a dirty trick on good ol' Billy and review his selections:

"EAST - Kentucky should sweep here if it gets by Princeton here in the first game. . . North Carolina would have had a chance if they were healthy but I can't see them winning with Walter Davis and Tommy LaGarde hurt.

"WEST - The winner of the UCLA-Louisville game should win the West . . . No dark horse here.

"MIDWEST I like Marquette."

MIDWEST - I see Tennessee and Michigan in the finals with Tennessee winning."

One out of four ain't so bad, maybe when there were eight teams in each regional to start with...

Ah, Marguette. Ah, Al McGuire.

Seems only yesterday that Bernard Toone of Yonkers, N.Y., was crying out loud in a Capital Center locker room after 1975 Capital Classic high school all-star game that he was done an injustice by not being named most valuable player. Last weekend his relief effort ignited the Warrior surge past Wake Forest in the regional final, but McGuire still is saying what's he's been saying all season - Toone isn't quite the player he thinks he is. "Bernard's a good ballplayer," McGuire acknowledged. "His time is still to come. I think it might be in the next two years, but that's up to coach (Hank) Raymonds," the assistant who succeeds McGuire next season. Meanwhile, Toone will be coming off the bench in Atlant . . .

Dave Kingman, the New York Mets' unsigned slugger, will have a hard time thumbing his nose at any new offer from the club. Taking extra batting practice yesterday in St. Petersburg, he bounced one off a batting cage support that came back and broke his nose. The big guy who hit 37 home runs last year, but missed 40 games with a busted thumb, won't have to miss any exhibitions . . . Happen to notice some the exhibition scores, especially from the Cactus League, where, for instance, the Seattle Mariners have constantly played 16-15, 18-10, 13-11, 16-7, 16-10 games with 35 to 40 hits? Just bum pitching by the expansion team and opposition such as Cubs and A's or can't it be - the new baseball?.

Spalding got out of the baseball manufacturing business, Rawlings is the new supplier and sample comment:

Umpire Nestor Chylak: "This new ball is 20-25 per cent livelier . . ." Red Sox manager Don Zimmer: "This baseball is like a golf ball." Umpire supervisor Dick Butler: "It seems like a more solid ball . . . but you might say the ball we used last year was soft" . . .

Today could be the day Joe Namath becomes a Los Angeles Ram. The B'way quarterback's lawyer, Jimmy Walsh, and Ram general manager Don Klosterman reportedly made the breakthrough with agreement on a $200,000 contract easy enough for Namath to make up the other $250,000 he's been drawing from the N.Y. Jets through movie, television and ad work . . .

Relief pitcher Mike Marshall finally will head for Atlanta Braves' camp this weekend, now that charges have been dropped against him in East Lansing in his hassle with Michigan State over use of facilities.

After January back surgery, Athlete Marshall is "about 60 per cent" rehabilitated, courtesy of kinesiologist Mike Marshall, who said he charged the likes of Billy Kilmer, Fran Tarkenton and Stan Smith a base fee of $5,000 to straighten out muscle miseries - leading to allegations by the MSU campus newspaper that he used school equipment for personal benefit, leading to a lawsuit by Marshall, and on and on with too long a tale to fit in here . . .

Now it's reported the Cleveland Barons' Jack Evans will be offered the job of coaching Team Canada at next month's world hockey championships in Austria. The Montreal Star says original plans were for co-coaches, but because the Caps' Tom McVie took himself out of the running they'll go with on e.