The George Washington University basketball team plays at Duquesne tonight in the opening round of the Eastern Eight playoffs and beleaquered Colonial Coach Bob Tallent believes he will be back as coach regardless of the outcome.

"I'll be here. But I think some changes will happen," said Tallent, whose team finished the regular season with an 8-18 overall record and was seventh in the league. "That's just from general impressions," he said. "I don't have any documented proof."

Tallent, whose seven-year totoal of 102 victories (he has 83 losses) is second only to the total of the legendary Bill Reinhart, has worked under one-year contracts the past two seasons.

This is the second losing season. Some critics think he should be replaced. Others say that no one can do better than Tallent. And almost everyone agrees that the program cannot improve without more money for recriuting and/or the establishment of a double standard for admitting a few players a year who would not qualify under GW's normal entrance requirements. p

That is what Tallent apparently means by "some changes will happen."

Bob Faris, the athletic director, said earlier this season that Tallent's $10,000 recruiting budget is adequate and that he would not discuss Tallent's future until the season was over. Faris did not return phone calls yesterday.

Two weeks ago, Faris, Tallent and Bernie Swain, the assistant athletic director, received notes asking them to attend a Friday meeting with Lloyd Elliott, the university president. At the last moment, Tallent and Swain were told the meeting had been canceled. But it was learned that Faris met with Elliott and answered questions posed by his boss.

The pro-Tallent forces cite these reasons why Tallent should stay: the university's unwillingness to spend the money to compete on a level of parity in the conference; a league that has at least four major state universities; injuries, transfers and academic failure that deprived the team of four players who would have seen considerable playing time; three transfers sitting out this season who will be vital players next season, and what Tallent calls his best recruiting year ever.

The anit-Tallent lobby cites other reasons why Tallent should not return. They include: apathy -- the students and season-ticket holders no longer support the team; the likely loss of the team's radio contract with WEAM, meaning the Colonials will not be on radio or television next season, and the failure to win a playoff game in the first five years of the Eastern Eight tournament.

If Faris decides to keep Tallent and give him more money for recruiting, he is admitting that he was wrong a month ago. By the same token, the anti-Tallent forces contend, the infusion of more money into recruiting will not get the students, radio and television back immediately. Only a new coach could accomplish that, they say.

If the Colonials win the 8 p.m. contest at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, they not only will have won their first tournament game (they never have been the home team in a first-round game), they will have beaten in succession West Virginia and Duquesne, two of the league's top three teams.

GW lost both games against Duquesne this season and had trouble stopping the Dukes' top two inside players, 6-foot-8, 232-pounds John Moore and 6-7, 220-pound Bruce Atkins. However, the Colonials are as healthy as they have been all season with guard Wilbert Skipper recovered from a separated shoulder and guard Curtis Jeffries having overcome a number of physical problems.