Tryouts for the 1980 United States Olympic basketball team will be held May 18-23 at North Carolina State University and those six days -- not prior reputation -- will decide who makes the team, Olympic Coach Dave Gavitt said on the weekend.

Gavitt, athletic director at Providence after coaching the Friars the past 10 seasons, said he will invite 64 players to Raleigh and is determined not to go into the trails with any preconceptions about who the 12 best players for the team are.

"The one thing I'll guarantee is that this team won't be picked on reputation," Gavitt said. "We'll pick the 12 guys are playing best when we see them in May."

Technically the team will be selected by a 12-man committee headed by North Carolina Coach Dean Smith, who coached the United States to the gold medal in Montreal in 1976. Smith made a point of the fact that he had only one vote in 12 after four of his North Carolina players were chosen for the '76 team -- all deserved to be chosen anyway -- but it is apparent that Gavitt will be the man responsible for the 12 who go to Moscow.

"I want kids who can handle adversity because I'm sure we'll face plenty of it, over in Moscow," Gavitt said. "I don't want kids who are going to get upset if the food is bad or if we have to wait five hours to get a bus. That's probably going to happen and I want kids who can deal with that."

Gavitt said he disagrees completely with Al McGuire's suggestion that the NBA agree to put off its draft until after the Olympics for fear that players drafted in the first round prior to the Games would hesitate to play.

"I'd rather see the draft held before the tryouts," Gavitt said. "That way kids wouldn't have agents telling them not to try out because it might hurt their draft status if they don't do well. This way, they would know where they've been drafted, know what their value is, and want to come to the trails."

No player can sign a professional contract prior to the Olympics and keep his eligibility for Moscow.

The Olympic team was not the only reason Gavitt was in the weekend news. He disclosed Saturday he had turned down an offer from the New York Knicks to become coach of the team when Red Holzman retires.

Madison Square Garden management wanted either Gavitt or Notre Dame's Digger Phelps as coach and had entered into serious negotiations with Gavitt, who was interested. But Gavitt withdrew from the negotiations largely because he felt that being involved with a professional team might create a conflict of interest at the Olympic trails.

The Garden is still courting Phelps, who reportedly turned down a huge offer last year to take over the team. Phelps is not likely to leave Notre Dame. Coaching the Irish is one of the nation's jobs, with recruiting helped immensely by the school gigantic name-recognition factor. Phelps is unlikely to leave a can't lose situtation for the pressure of succeeding in New York.

Today's editions of the New York Daily News quote Mike Burke, president of the Knicks, as saying Gavitt had decided not to discuss any future position with the club until after the Olympics, because of the possible conflict of interest.

The News said Holzman is expected to coach through the 1980-81 season and quotes Burke as saying that Bavitt "is our first choice for the job" thereafter.

By playing against Richmond Saturday night, George Washington's Mike Zagardo, who had talked about red-shirting this season because of a pre-season ankle injury, lost any chance of sitting out the season. Zagardo has now played six games and five is the limit for someone who wishes to save a year's eligibility. . . Wake Forest's star guard, Frank Johnson, who had apparently decided to play this year despite a preseason foot injury, changed his mind at the last minute. After shooting 28 percent the first five games, Johnson decided to give up and return in 1980-81. His absence will hurt Wake in the back court but with Johnson and the four sophomores currently starting, the Deacons next season should be their strongest since the 1977 team went 22-8 and to the NCAA final eight. . . American's Boo Bowers, averaging 26.8 points for the 4-4 Eagles, is the seventh-leading scorer in the country. AU Coach Gary Williams said his team's second half against Wake Forest, cutting a 20-point deficit to flour before losing by nine, was the best his team has played all year.

Although many Georgetown fans are looking ahead to a matchup in the Holiday Festival final this week in New York against St. John's, the Hoyas will face a very tough test in the opening round against one of the East's most underrated teams: Boston College. The Eagles (5-1), coached by former American and Maryland assistant Tom Davis, had top-rated Duke (8-0) all but beaten Friday night before losing 70-64 in overtime, in the Industrial National Cassic in Providence.

In the tournament in Providence, Duke Coach Bill Foster was enraged by the work of the ECAC officials both nights even though his team won it. Although he wouldn't say anything publicly, Foster picked up his third technical in the last three seasons in the Blue Devils 82-78 championship win over Providence and was visibly angered at the end of the game when All-American Mike Gminski, tourney MVP, was decked by Osbourn Park graduate Billy Fields as the clock ran out.

As always happens when a touted team drops its first game, there will be people who label Virginia overrated after its 83-79 loss to San Jose State Friday night.

Don't do it.

The Cavaliers are good and getting better. Freshman center Ralph Sampson is going to have nights where he gets in foul trouble like Friday and Coach Terry Holland knows he must get more consistent play from Mike Owens, more shots from point guard Jeff Jones and better bench play. But like Sampson, the bench is young. There is no need for Cavalier fans to panic over one loss.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech fans are delighted with their team's 6-0 start. The Hokies are one of four teams in the state with legitimate NCAA hopes the others being Virginia, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth. Those last three teams will join Richmond in a Christmas tournament this weekend in Richmond, and it should be a weekend of superb basketball.