Among the nation's college basketball meets, Washington is distinguished by its variety of sophisticated yet dramatically dissimilarivles.

True believers of every persuasion - including bona fide 33d-degree addicted hoopsters - can find a temple of sweat here where they can exchange secret handclasps or offer a laam of appreciation for the brand of balley worship.

"No two teams in this area even resemble each other." George Washington coach Bob Tallent points out proudly. "Our seven major colleges cover the entire gamut."

Every tactical modus operandi - from wild-lad-woolly to meticulous - has its practitioner [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Maryland means power, while George own has made the word Hoya synonymous with quickness. GW lusts for 100 fast breaks each night, while Navy wages war to prevent [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that many.

For those with subtle palates and a sympancy for underdogs, the city offers American, Catholic and Howard universities. Their coaches burn midnight oil as though it were incense to the roundball gods as they search [WORD ILLEGIBLE] new machinations that will spark unexpected victories.

This panoply of sophisticated basketball systems, all co-existing in one town, has two repeated causes.

"I don't care what any of these other guys around town say," says Tallent. "Every one of them, including me, coaches almost exactly the way he played himself. And no two of us layed alike."

"In a pinch," say Catholic's Jack Kvancz, you revert not only to the style you played yourself, but to the way the game was taught to the region of the country where you had our roots."

It would be hard to imagine seven coaches with more diverse roots than Washington's. They draw their nourishment from almsot every major basketball influence east of the Mississippi.

Tallent learned the free-wheeling, fast-break Kentucky style from the dean himself, Adolph stupp.

Georgetown's John Thomas prepped under the Boston Celtics' Red Auerbach. The loyas mirror Auerbach's belief in specialists with one dominant skill.

AU's Jimmy Lynam was the epitome of a Philadelphia Big Five guard in his St. Joseph's say when he spit in the eye of presses. Lyman's Eagles of today would look right at some in the old Palestra.

Maryland's Lefty Driesell discovered in his ACC playing days at Duke that a little Southern salesmanship (i.e!, recruiting) was closer to coaching godliness than cleanliness ever dreamed of being.

CU's Kvancz learned at Bob Cousy's knee how a little New England team (Boston College) could beat its betters with a nasty, sagging 1-2-2 zone defense and an opportunistic last break.

From the Midwest comes Navy's diminutive Bob Hamilton, who learned patient offense and eyeball-to-eyeball defense at Wittenberg in Springfield. Ohio, where he was a 5-foot-7 point guard on a team that led all NCAA colleges in defense four straight years.

And Spingarn High, home of Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing, spawned Howard coach A. B. Williamson, who has always taught an orderly [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of the run-and-shoot, fullcourt-press style that is indigenous to Washington playgrounds.

"The thing we coaches are supposed to say," grins GU's Thompson, "is that mush-mouth stuff about how you adapt your style each year to the players you have.

"That's the ideal. In reality, most of us have a preconceived idea about what is important and we fit our players to those concepts if it is at all possible."

The savory byproduct of Washington's garden of basketball flowers is a rich cross-polenation of ideas.

"We steal from each other like mad," says Kvancz.

"I'll borrow from anybody," quips Williamson. "I'm like Milton Berle.I have no pride."

Each coach has his idiosyncrasies, over some of which his fraternal peers occasionally snicker behind his back.

"As a player Jimmy Lyman never saw a press he could not beat," says one local coach. "So his Au teams take the ball into the heart of traps, they try to reverse it to the open man."

Needless to say, Lyman has not always ha a Lyman to carry out the strategy.

Perhaps Driesell is the coach whose pet theories are easiest to spot - and hardest to stop. Opponents don't laugh long about how Maryland's game films look interchangable from year to year.

"Lefty was a big man (All-Virginia in high school) and he loves those layups." Chuckles Tallent. "If he can't get the easy ones off the fast break, he'll force it inside to his (double-post) big guys and bang away on the offensive boards until the ball gives up and fall in."

Tallent's own GW teams in recent years have been dominated by fast-firing, Tallent type guards - first his brother Pat, then John Holloran.

"I couldn't have played for me," protests Tallent. "I wouldn't allow anyone to throw up some of the shots I took." Nevertheless, Tallent confesses that by Holloran's senior year "watching John was like seeing myself play again . . . if I'd been better."

A startling irony this year is that every local coach has a similar glaring weakness: they all lack a player who resembles the coach.

"Sometimes it's easier to spot and recruit the kind of player who supported your game than it is to pick out a guy who is just like you," says Kvancz.

For example, GU's Thompson has recruited a succession of near 7-footers like himself in hopes that one would blooom in college as he did.

Yet Thompson admitted this week that "our program won't turn the corner into a Top 20-type team until one of our big men turns that corner. We look big on the program (with 7-foot, 240-pound Mike Frazier and 6-11, 250 Tom Scates) but we have a size problem on the court. Right now, our height is a myth."

Analogous problems exist at every area college. It is almost eerie. Tallent has loads of big men but his small, poor-shooting back court cries out for a 6.4 shooter like . . . well, Bob Tallent.

AU has good size and a promising 6-5 swingman, Russell Bowers, in the smooth-shooting Wilbur Thomas, Calvin Brown mold of past years. But the Eagles lack a brainy point guard like . . . Jimmy Lynam.

Navy has two excellent 6-7 gents in Hank Kuzma and Kevin Sinnett, plus a 6-3 wingman named Jack Stumborg who can shoot. But where - oh, where - is that tiny floor-leader like . . . Bob Hamilton?

And so it goes. Williamson searches for a dependable ballhandler who can shoot even a little - the way he could. Kvancz lost brilliant guard Glenn Kolonics to graduation - and wouldn't he love to have a young Kvancz in there to fill the gap.

Even Driesell covets a rugged, shove-it-in-the-hoop forward (like he once was). It makes the Terp coach nervous that his three best scorers - Albert King, Billy Bryant and Jo Jo Hunter - like the 20-foot jumper better than heavy taffic.

When Craig (Big Sky) Shelton of GU secored 25 against his Terps this week, Driesell said wistfully. "He's a great player. It felt like he scored 45 because he got 'em inside. That's where I like to see the work get done."

Nevertheless, of all the weaknesses Washington's coaches could be afflicted with, these are probably the least serious.

"We all coach our old positions well," Tallent reckons. "We have all had strong players there in the past. We'll develop a big scoring guard. John Thompson will bring along a center. Jimmy Lynam won't take long to polish some good guards."

So, for those who prefer their basketball subtle, and even cerebral, this should be another long, rich winter.

"People in Washington like to discuss their ball and argue a little," says Howard's Williamson. "They like a contrast in styles so they can get a debate going.

"Every coach in this area breathed a sigh a relief when Portland beat Philadelphia in the NBA finals last year. If those crazy, one-on-one, twisting-slam-dunk guys on the 76ers had won, it would have been tough to coach anybody this year."

But Portland's savvy prevailed and smarts are still in vogue. The chess games on the hardwood have just begun once more.

Navy has unveiled a close-order-drill offense in which no Midshipman dares dribble the ball more than once. And they have already upset Princeton.

GU now starts a speed lineup with a skinny 6-4 forward and its giants sitting on the bench.

Maryland shuffles its deck of raw talent searching for the right five-card deal before heading to Tobacco Road.

Tiny CU sets records for floor burns. And AU once more plots its kaleidoscope of defenses - often a different one each time the bad guys cross midcourt.

College basketball, especially in Washington, is a coach's medium, and consequently, it is a thinking man's form of basketball. Do we switch defenses, stall, juggle lineups? When do we get into the foul-shooting one-and-one? All the gone-to-seed hoopsters in the stands with names like Highrim Jelloknees get to make their thousand second guesses.

"Yes," muses Kvancz, "you search every-where for players who fit your style. You put together a team, and you and the assistants think you've dreamed up some real smart stuff.

"Then the horn blows. You send the kids out on the court," he says wryly. "And suddenly you say to yourself, 'I'm helpless.'"