The latest Tripucka to roll off the New Jersey assembly line, the 1979 Kelly, is built of genuine Notre Dame confidence and charisma.

"I have my heart set on winning the national championship. I would not be satisfied just to make the final four," said Tripucka. "Coach told us, 'You have the talent to do it. It's up to you. You can and you should win it all. It's up to you.'"

Tripucka is the leading scorer and rebounder for the top-ranked, 12-1 Irish, a former all-state soccer and track star who employs his versatile skills and 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame inside and outside as a small forward.

Tripucka's statistics are not eye-poppers (15.3 points, 5.2 rebounds), mostly because Notre Dame is able to reach so deeply into its barrel of talent without ever scraping the bottom. Tripucka averages only 28 minutes a game, and so far his statistics have not been glittery enough to thrust him in the footsteps of big brothers Todd and Tracy, who won All-America mention at Lafayette.

Then again, Lafayette isn't Notre Dame.

"We do feel we're No. 1," said Tripucka, who will play against Maryland Saturday at Cole Field House before a sellout crowd. "If we play our game, no one can beat us.

"We've been playing as well, almost, as we can. Our depth has been wearing down opponents. Only a few guys haven't played up to their potential yet. Man for man, we have the best 10 guys on one team.

"When a player is off, there is always someone ready to pick up the slack."

Notre Dame has lost Dave Batton and Don (Duck) Williams from last year's team that played well all year and then got swallowed up by Duke in the first 20 minutes of their game in the NCAA semifinals.

This year's team is better, Tripucka says, because of the maturing of five sophomores: himself, Tracy Jackson (the team's second-leading scorer who doew not even start), starting power forward Orlando Woolridge, Stan Wilcox and Gil Salinas.

"It helps to have one year under your belt," said Tripucka. "We go out there with no fear."

Growing up with a herd of brothers in tough Bloomfield, N. J., Tripucka has learned not to be too frightened of much of anything.

His freshman year, he said, "was not hard at all. I had fun."

The part that was not fun was losing to Duke.

"One bad first half against Duke killed us," said Tripucka, who had been the most valuable player in the Midwest regional. "But it was a learning experience, a growing experience. We know what it's like now."

It is difficult to go anywhere in college basketball and not trip over a Tripucka. Kelly played against brother T.K. Wednesday night when Notre Dame played Fordham. "It was great," said Kelly. "Every once in a while, we watched each other."

It was not half as much fun, he said, as at last year's game against Fordham at Madison Square Garden with T.K., 22, playing for the Rams: Kelly, 19, playing for Notre Dame and Tracy, 29, coaching Fordham (he now is an assistant coach at Utah).

"And," said Kelly, "it was my birthday."

Meanwhile, back home in Essex Fells, N.J., kid brother Christopher, 16, is starting for his high school team as a sophomore. The father of all the basketballers is Frank Tripucka, who quarterbacked the Notre Dame football team in 1948 and later the Chicago Cardinals. While Todd, 25, T.K. and Tracy started the basketball dynasty, one of Keily's older brothers, Mark, 28, followed in his dad's cleat marks and played quarterback, at Massachusetts.

One wonders what might have happened if the Tripucka household was not into sports.

"We'd all be Mozarts or something," said Tripucka. "Even my sister (Heather, Tracy's swin) scored 56 points in a high school game once.She's 5-11. She more or less controlled us."

Tripucka has a look about him that is not exactly Hollywood Hills. He is more Jersey tough guy, with a bulging build and a noticeable overbite.

"Everyone thinks all people from New Jersey are crazy," said Tripucka. "I don't mind that label at all. I like it. Maybe I am crazy.

"There was always equipment around our house. Kept us out of trouble is more or leass what sports did."

Out of high school, Tripucka narrowed his college choices to Duke, South Carolina, Maryland and Notre Dame, and he says he came very close to choosing Maryland.

"My decision to opt for Notre Dame was a little of everything," said Tripucka. "There is little more recognition and a little better schedule here. I like the idea of being an independent. I told (Maryland coach) Lefty (Driesell) that and he said, 'Why didn't you tell me? We could have dropped out of the conference.'"

As it turns out, Tripucka is happy at Notre Dame, does not mind the pressure and thrives on the surroundings.

"I've really enjoyed meeting all the people I've met and taking all the trips. Our best trip was to the Garden. After the game, we all walked around New York, looking at the weird people. Half of them were from New Jersey."

One gets the impression Tripucka has tamed the world. He has a sense of humor. He loves Notre Dame. He probably even loves the South Bend snow, right?

"I hate the snow," he said.