The main thing that distinguishes Jane Zivalich from other A-minus premed students is that she is 5-foot-10 and starts for a nationally ranked basketball team.

"No one is surprised to find out that I'm a basketball player. Not when I stand up," said Zivalich, the small forward on Maryland's unbeaten women's team. "I have to lenghten my pants, and I can accept that."

Zivalich has accepted many things in her 20 years: moving from St. Louis to Atlanta to New Orleans to Florida; losing a younger brother to leukemia, and all that is involved in being the middle of eight children.

Such a mixture of experiences have prepared her for a current adventure challenged; coping with women's intercollegiate athletics.

"Right now, the problems we're experiencing seem almost prehistoric to the men," Zivalich said. "They can't conceive that it's a hassle just knowing when and where you're going to practice.

"When Lefty (men's coach Lefty Driesell) decides to have practice, he has pracitce. And it's just through an oversight that Lefty sometimes forgets to tell us when he's using the court. We're not real pleased about it. It's hard to be a first-class team when you're treated as second class.

Driesell admits to only one such slip of memory. He says he waited two hours in his locker room while the women used the floor at the time he had promised but had later rescheduled for his practice.

"I have practice when and where I had practices before we had girls here," Driesell said."But we always cooperate. One time, I forgot I told them they could use it at a certain time. They use our basketballs, our locker room and our training room."

The team's hardships - lacked of local recognition, bus rides when the men fly, $8 meal money when the men get $16, unpredictable practice schedules - have given the women a sense of appreciation for the progress that is being made.

"I'm thrilled that we have a bus this year," Zivalich said. "Last year we took a trip in a car that didn't have a heater, and we had to scrape ice off the inside of the windows. Just last year we had to pay for our own shoes, and this year the school bought them for us. These are things men take for granted.

"We appreciate each and every change, and just that reason we're willing to give just a little more and go out of our way. We're gone without for so long than willing to sacrifice."

Zivalich said some women resent the fact that there is no place to trade their talents in exchange for a million dollar salary. But this a double-edged issue.

Women also are free of the pressures of the National Basketball Association.

This empty pot at the end of their college rainbow has inspired some positive things.

On the court, Maryland is a relaxed group playing a team game. No one displays one-on-one wares for scouts in the stands. Off the court, the women see beyond basketball both professionally and socially.

The most marked difference between athletics of opposite sexes is not in muscle mass, competitivesness or skill. It is the camaraderie, the giggly stories and the wider focus that separate women from men in the college game.

"The men, I think, are outrageously lopsided in feeling that athletics is everything," Zivalich said. "Eric Shrader (an honor student and seldom-used guard on the Maryland men's team) and I have lunch a lot, and sometimes I wonder if he's a real weirdo on his team.

"I'm glad that we don't have to live together like the men do. With all the time we spent together, that's all we'd need.

"You have to round yourself out socially and academically. One of the things I think is unusual is that not many of the girls date. It's hard to organize your time to fit everything in, but it can be done.

"On our bus trips, everyone is usually studying when we're not playing cards or charades. I'm not a bookworm, but if I take two days off studies, I'll get killed in my classes."

Zivalich is a chemistry major and one of a large Yugoslavian-Irish family of achievers. Her oldest sister Donna, 23, is about to graduate from Tulane medical school; Suzanne, 22, is an artist, and brother Tony, 18, is a freshman at Notre Dame, where he was one of 10 finalist at walkon basketball tryouts for 100 students.

Home was like a party most of the time, and Zivalich, despite her seriousness and intellect, is "known to be a little beserk," she said.

Perhaps no one thought it was unusual when Zivalich and her room-mate pasted pink and yellow feathers on their eyelids, dressed in leotards and went to lunch disguised as birds. And when guard Lisa Schlesinger found her good-luck doll dismembered and floating piecemeal in the hotel pool in Virginia, she knew the culprit.

"I put the doll back together for her," Zivalich said. "I'm good at anatomy."

Zivalich is the team's most valuable party-thrower, and dates often.

"If I was a guy, I wouldn't be turned off by an athlete," Zivalich said. "I guess they think that, if nothing else, it (athletics) keeps you in shape and makes you look good.

"Guys tend to be more threatened by intellect than athletic prowess. I find myself worrying about using a word he doesn't know. I was taught never to do two things: throw a game or talk to someone.

"I don't think there's any problem with the jock image on our team. Last year, people were wearing jeans, overalls and painters' pants. Now the coach insists we all dress nicely to shed the image.

"Sometimes I feel the major setback to women's athletics are the women's libbers who feel that in order to achieve equality with the men, you have to act like a man.

"Women are so gung-ho and everything is happening so fast, that sometimes we're not seeing the consequences of our actions. It will take a couple of years to straighten it all out."