Pressure.

That's what Oregon State basketball is all about, and the Beavers make no pretense about it. They are not pretty, they are not tricky and they do not sneak up on you. They come at you from the opening tap and never let up.

"You have to adust to me more than I do to you," said Ralph Miller, the Beavers' colorful, 60-year-old coach. "I have two 6-4 guards who are going to put so much pressure on you the whole game that you're going to get tired of looking at them.

"This team has let it be known that it wants to keep its position in the polls and to win a championship. To do that, we have to be a cold-blooded group of people who play 40 minutes every game. We put full-court pressure on the whole game for one reason: because other people don't like it."

The Beavers' pressing defense and a simple, yet highly effective, offense have carried them to a 17-0 record, making them and Virginia the only two undefeated teams in Division 1.

Virginia is ranked No. I in one poll, Oregon State No. 1 in the other.

In the East, they say Ralph Sampson is unstoppable. Out West, they say everyone cracks under the Oregon State pressure.

The two 6-foot-4 guards, Ray Blume and Wayne Radford, both are from Portland, which is 75 miles north of here, and both are four-year starters. They are the team's backbone, providing offensive leadership and defensive intimidation that makes everything fall into place.

But the offense still revolves around 6-10 1/2 Steve Johnson, who is on his way to becoming the best percentage shooter in NCAA history. Another four-year starter, Johnson is averaging 21 points a game, with phenomenal 76 percent field-goal accuracy. He set the one-season record of 71 percent last season. For his college career, Johnson is shooting 67 percent, ahead of Bill Walton's record 65 percent.

There is no secret to Johnson's shooting sucess. He takes only what can be described as high-percentage shots, very high percentage.

"In his entire career, I don't think he's taken more than 15 shots from more than three feet away from the basket," Miller said. "I would hope he could make most of his shots from six inches away."

Johnson's basic shot is a turn-around hook in front of the basket. Everyone knows he's going to shoot it, but he still gets the ball and he still gets the shot off.

"No one can stay with Steve one on one." Blume said, "not even Sampson, Anyone who guards Steve will have to stay in his chest for 40 minutes, because every time we go to our set offense, the ball is going to him. I don't care if they put three men on him, the ball will go to him."

Johnson isn't the only Beaver who doesn't miss often. The five starters -- Johnson, Blume, Radford, 6-8 freshman Charlile Sitton and 6-4 junior-college transfer Lester Conner -- are shooting 60 percent. As a team, Oregon State is hitting 57.3 percent. The NCAA record is 57.2 percent.

Again, Miller has no secrets to explain. His players don't take bad shots and the defense sets up numerous easy baskets. The Beavers are forcing 21 turnovers a game and Miller has them conditioned so well mentally that the set offense, as unsophisticated as it is, has proven so far to be unstoppable.

Most coaches are pleased if half their team's baskets come off assists. Oregon State is averaging 23 percent of its field goals.

"I designed this system in 1948, and it hasn't changed," Miller said.

It must work, for in 30 years of coaching he has won 503 games at Wichita State, Iowa and Oregon State. That ranks him third for most victories among active major college coaches behind Ray Meyer of De Paul and Marv Harshman of Washington.

"I'm an old dog, but the system is exciting," Miller said. "We don't adjust to individuals, the individuals have to adjust to the system. The type of players who we think will fit in are the ones we go after. We don't care if a kid is a blue-chipper or not. We just want to know if he can play.

The two best examples of that are Johnson and Blume. Johnson ran away from home his senior year in high school so he could begin playing basketball. His parents were against his playing for relilgious reasons. Only Oregon State offered him a scholarship.

Blume was a small pivot man in high school and Oregon State was, again, the only major school interested in him.

Miller's practices are a series of repeated plays. Three-on-three full court games with full court pressure. He repeats what is a good shot and what isn't. Reacting the right way has become almost a conditioned response forr his players. They react ilnstead of thinking, but that doesn't mean they lack intellilgence.

"Intelligence comes from being conditioned to the correct automatic response," Miller said. "If I keep telling you that a 15-foot open shot is what you want, it's going to sink in after a while. And if you don't get that shot, you're going to back off and pass the basketball.

"Our system, both offensively and defensively, is based on pressure. We apply it 40 minutes a game and we do it to fatigue the other team. The objective of the offense is to get a wide-open shot. We're going to take it whenever it comes, whether it's quick or we have to grind it out. It doesn't matter to me."

Top ranking in the polls does matter.

Oregon State's only regular season game in the East, where many voted are cast, will be Feb. 14 against St. John's at the Nassau County Colilseum. That will be a nationally televised game.

"I think Virginia had No. 1 handed to them," Radford said. "It doesn't really bother us, though, because we've always had to prove ourselves."

"Everyone watches the national rankings and we know we're competing for No. 1, so we keep tabs on Virginia," said Blume.

Miller says it is "impossible to keep the kids' minds off Virginia. The rankings are important to them."

The Beavers have 10 games remaining. They play at California Friday and at Stanford Saturday, then at UCLA and USC with a home date against powerful Arizona State. Some time after that a meeting with Virginia is possible.

"I just hope wr're both still undefeated when we face them," Radford said.

Due to the luck of the draw, however, this matchup would occur in the NCAA semifinals in Philadelphia, where the East Regional winner plays the West Regional winner this year. Of course, by winning, Oregon State still would need to apply one last 40 minutes of pressure in the championship game two days later.