If it were any other place, the student body would probably be in ecstasy playing its No. 1 ranking to the hilt. But the school is UCLA and its fans expect the Bruins to be No. 1.

It has been a while, though.

The Bruins (20-3) have been the NCAA champions 10 of the last 15 years, but have not won the crown since 1975. The way this year's team is playing, however, it could very well be national championship time all over again.

This is a typical UCLA team, similar in personnel and style to many of the national championship teams, especially the ones without big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.

The Bruins have two All-Americans, 6-9 forward David Greenwood and 6-2 guard Roy Hamilton, but neither dominates the UCLA offense. Almost all the Bruins get into the act.

Greenwood is averaging 18.6 points a game and Hamilton 17. The other guard, long-shooting Brad Holland, is scoring a 16.7 clip and the other forward, Kiki Vandeweghe, is averaging 14.1 points.

As a team, the Bruins are shooting 55.6 percent from the field, the best in the nation.

Perhaps the most important characteristic of UCLA is that the players are happy. They are close and they are having fun. They are under pressure, especially now that they are No. 1, 1, but they have remained loose and seemingly carefree.

"Our team has come together on and off the floor," said Holland. "The guys have really pulled together. We know the importance of winning the national title and know what it takes to do it.

"We are back to the old UCLA tradition. It doesn't matter who scores. We just play pressure defense, press full court and run the break. That's what has made UCLA so great over the years and that's what we are trying to do, too."

It has been a tough haul back to the top for the Bruins.

They earned their top ranking in the United Press International poll last week by knocking off Notre Dame in South Bend. After victories over Arizona State and Arizona last week, they took over the top spot in the Associated Press poll as well.

"The important thing to me is to be No. 1 in our conference," said secondyear Coach Gary Cunningham.

And that is what the Bruins are -- No. 1 in the Pacific-10 Conference. They are 12-2 and enjoy a two-game lead over Southern California with four games to play.

The Bruins play at Washington Thursday and at Washington State Saturday. Their final two regular-season games are at Pauley Pavilion against Stanford and California.

Assuming the Bruins get to the NCAA tournament, which is almost a certainty, their first tournament game also will be at Pauley.

The Bruins' three losses were to Notre Dame at Pauley Dec. 9, at Stanford Dec. 27 and at Arizona Jan. 18.

UCLA is a different team now than it was then. "The biggest difference is that we are more mature in being a physical team," Cunningham said. "An example of that is the difference in the two Notre Dame games. We just couldn't match them physically the first time. We can now."

In the first game, the Irish outrebounded the Bruins, 39-31, and made 11 more free throws.

In the second game, UCLA won the rebound battle, 43-39, and made four more free throws.

Two days after the defeat by Arizona, Cunningham started a lineup of Hamilton and Holland at guards, Greenwood and Vandeweghe at forward and Gig Sims at center, for the first time this season. They buried Arizona State, 95-79. That lineup hasn't lost yet, winning nine straight.

It took a miraculous finish against the Sun Devils in the rematch last Thursday to keep that streak alive.

The Bruins trailed by four points with nine seconds to play, but pulled out an 85-83 victory.

Hamilton made two free throws to cut the lead to two points and Vandeweghe stole the inbound pass and was fouled. He made two free throws to tie the score.

Arizona State then missed a desperation shot, but Hamilton was fouled going for the rebound with no time showing on the clock, but before the horn went off. He made two free throws and the Bruins were 20-3.

Though the UCLA starters do most of the playing and scoring, reserves Tyren Naulls, James Wilkes and Darrell Allums are all vital to the attack.

Freshman guard Naulls made four free throws in the final 13 seconds to secure the victory over Notre Dame and Allums and Wilkes give the Bruins the muscle and versatility they need up front.

Cunningham doesn't want to start thinking about the tournament yet, even though his team is being touted along with Duke, Michigan State and Notre Dame as one of the four teams with the best chance to win it all.

"I try to keep everything in perspective and I try not to look too far ahead," he said.