It could be mistaken for football or wrestling.

"I'll be elbowing, pushing and shoving," said Notre Dame's Bill Laimbeer."

We don't plan on letting anyone push us around. We can, and will, push back," said Duke's Gene Banks.

"Why be cute when brute strength will get the same results and is more fun?" said Kentucky's James Lee.

"We're ready to take some bumps and bruises, but we can take care of ourselves," said Arkansas' Sidney Moncrief.

No, this is not the all-American street gang championships to be settled downtown with tire irons and chains. It is the NCAA basketball championship, but the eventual winner may feel as if it had gone through a street bawl.

As attested by some of the participants, this probably will be one of the most physical final four meetings in a long time.

Notre Dame (23-6), and independent and the Midwest Regional champion, will play Duke (26-6), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion and East representative, in one of today's semi-final games at 2:15 (EST).

The second game at 4:15, will be between Kentucky (28-2), the South-eastern Conference champion and Mideast represenative, and Arkansas (31-3), an at-large team from the Southwest Conference and the West champion.

The final is scheduled Monday night. All games are at the Checkerdome and will be televised nationally (WRC-TV-4 in Washington).

Kentucky is a 4 1/2-point favorite today; Notre Dame is favored by 2 1/2.

Most experts are picking Kentucky as the eventual winner, mainly because the Wildcats are big, strong and experienced. They have also been ranked No. 1 most of the season.

But there is no clear-cut favorite. Notre Dame is just as big and strong as Kentucky and what it lacks in experience, it makes up in depth.

Arkansas and Duke can't stand toe-to-toe and slug it out with their sem-final opponents, but both teams have those gifted athletes who can Nureyev the opposition to death.

"Sure we fell the pressure of being the team picked to win it all," said Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall; but we know we have a good chance to do it. We know we have to play our best and we also realize we don't always do that.

"If we play to our capabilities and play our best basketball, we can win. But if our game is down a litle bit and someone is playing their best, it's out of our hands."

Kentucky received a bow yesterday when two reserves, including guard Jay Shidley, were called home because of family crisises.

Hall said that Shildler, a part-time starter, left for his Vincennes, Ind., home to be with his critically ill mother, Scott Counts, a forward with only 20 minutes playing time this season, "returned to his Colorado home where his father died. Funeral services for Horace Counts are scheduled today.

"Right now we don't know if Scott can rejoin us,said Hall. "We hope Jay will be back Saturday. But righ now, their family problems are more important than a basketball game. There's no question this has affected our team. It has led to a feeling of confusion an sadness."

The team that is probably playing the best at present is Notre Dame. The Irish breezed through their Kentucky, Arkansas and Duke all struggle at times.

"We have a lot of momentum right now," said Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps. "You have to have consistency, and that's what we've had the last three games, confidence and consistency.

"I think our depth must be a factor for us to win," Phelps added. "We have to find a combination they (the Blue Devils) can't handle. It may get down to controlling the boards and turnovers. It usually does."

The Blue Devils who most concerns Phelps is guard Jim Spanarkel.

"He makes things happen," Phelps said. "Another guy can get 20 because of Spanarkel, or Spanarkel can get 30 because of Spanarkel.

Banks, Duke's talented freshman, agrees. "He (Spanarkel) is the charisma on the court," Banks said. "He's an inspiration. He assures us that everything will be okay."

The biggest obstacle Duke will have to hurdle of it is to beat Notre Dame is its depth. The Irish just keep coming. There is no other team with reserves the caliber of the 6-11 Laimbeer, 6-5 Tracy Jackson, 6-7 Bill Hanzlik and 6-0 Jeff Carpenter among others.

Notre Dame had the toughest regular-season schedule of the four teams, and that is starting to show.

Duke is the yougest team, starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, but it hasn't seemed to bother the Blue Devils so far.

"We're awfully young, but I really don't have time to worry about that," said Coach Bill Foster. "I've gotso many other things to worry about.

"If there is one thing all four teams left have in common is that they can all shoot well.All have averaged better than 50 percent for the season, but none shoots better than Arkansas.

The Razonbacks led the NCAA in fieldgoal percentage for the second straight season by shooting 55 percent. They also limited their opponents to making 43 percent, also the best in Division I.

Arkansas shot below 50 percent only eight times in 34 games this season and shot better than 60 percent seven times and better than 70 once.

Arkansas other strength is its speed and quickness.

"If we utilize those two things, we can beat Kentucky," said guard Ron Brewer. "If we let them utilize their strength and power on the boards, we're going to have a hard time."

They're going to try to jam the ball inside on us," said Arkansas' Steve Schall. "We'll just have to play our game and not worry about how strong they are."

"They have the great power game, but they don't have the leapers, we do," said Moncrief, the Razorbacks' best jumper. "We'll give them problems."

Brewer, Moncrief and Marvin Delph, all 6-4, are of particular concern to Hall.

"They all shoot 60 percent from the floor and they can all vertical jump 40 inches. There is no way you can match up with them," he said.

The teams: