American University's Eagles will try to equal the longest winning streak in their Division I basketball history when they play Stetson at 9 o'clock tonight in the first round of the Tangerine Bowl tournament in Winter Park, Fla.

The Eagles (6-3) have won six straight under first-year Coach Gary Williams. The only AU team to win more was the 1972-73 squad Kermit Washington led to the NIT, where Louisville broke the streak in the first round.

Rounding out the Tangerine field are Central Florida (formerly Florida Tech) and VMI.

American and Virgina get a oneday jump on other area schools participating in holiday tournaments.

Virginia's final prep for the Atlantic Coast Conference is tonight in the Sugar Bowl tournament at New Orleans. The Cavaliers paly Providence at 10 p.m., EST. The winner will face the Alabama-Bradley winner Friday.

Only Maryland will be at home among the five area teams in tournaments this week, and the field for the Maryland Invitational Tournament is attractive. The 6-2 hosts play St. Joseph's (5-3) at 7 o'clock Friday followed by Southern California (6-2) against Holy Cross (5-2) and Ron Perry, the nation's No. 2 Division I scorer with an average of 30.8.

Howard (5-2) plays Morehouse of Atlanta (3-4) in the Winston-salem (N.C.) Invitational, but to win it all, the Bison likely will have to beat Winston Salem (6-1). Winston-Salem, an upcoming powerhouse under Clarence (Bighouse" Gaines, the nation's winningest active college coach (626 victories), plays Edward Waters of Jacksonville, Fla. (2-6).

Navy (5-3) faces Central Michigan (4-4) in the first round of the Evansville (ind). Ournament. Central Michigan is better than its record, though. The top 10 players are back from a 16-10 squad last year and its losses include road sotbacks at Michigan State, Michigan and Detroit.

Evansville (3-5), which has won three straight with a team that started anew follwong a fatal airplane crash last winter, meets Rakansas State (2-3) in the other game.

Ironically for American, Stetson defeathered the Eagles the last time they had a six-game winning streak, in the 1974-75 season.

Stetson's 4-5 record also is deceiving. It includes road losses by apoint at Nevanda-Las Vegas and Colorado. The Hatters also are the biggest team AU is likely to face this season.

A 13-day AU layoff and Stetson's size concern Williams most, since AU's biggest liability this season is its lack of height.

Corky Corzine, a 6-foot-11 junior college transfer and no relation to the Bullets' rookie, is Stetson's capable center. He's flanked by 6-7 Greg Guye, its best all-around player, and Wilbur Mongtomery, a 6-6 230-pounder who is intimidating inside.

"They're bigger inside than Alabama," Williams said, "but they don't have as much depth. We've going to press, although it's going to be a little different because they can stick it from 15 feet.

"They're not great ball-handlers, but if they break it, we've got to get back and stop them, make them play half-court offense."

Tom Pfotzer, a 6-9 junior who replaced 6-7 Bob (Piper) Harvey at center after he suffered a concussion against Catholic U., will open in the middle for AU because he has been rebounding well, williams said. Harvey appears to be back to normal.

The Eagles will need big games from their two top scorers, guard Stan Lamb (22.9 points per game, 50.9 percent field-goal accuracy) and forward Russell (Boo) Bowers (19.2 points and 51.5 percent shooting).

At Maryland, the USC-Holy Cross game will be a matchup of Southern Cal's inside strength-sophomore center Cliff Robinson-against the Holy Cross perimeter game, led by Perry, a junior guard who made 43 straight free throws this seaso Winston-Salem, Coach A.B. Williamson should Winstson-Salem, Coach A.B. Williamson shouldget a good idea how much the Bison have progressed. Winston-Salem should be among the favorites for the NAIA championship this season.

Reginald gaines, a 6-7 junior, leads Winston-Salem with a 26-point average. According to Coach gaines, no relation to his star, Gaines is one of the rare players who has the ability to play point guard or center.

Howard will get one break, however. David Harold, Winston's point guard and a pro prospect, has a badly sprained ankle and will not see action, the coach said.