The most of Wyoming's basketball team, Howard University is an unknown commodity.

"I've heard of it from an educational point, but not the basketball program," said Cowboy forward Ken Ollie.

"I've heard of Howard," center Chris Engler said. "I've got a friend who goes to the Naval Academy.But I haven't heard about their basketball team."

Don't think, however, that tonight's NCAA West Region game in Los Angeles' Pauley Pavilion (WHMM-TV-32, 13:30 a.m. EST Friday) will find the Cowboys looking past the Bison.

"We take every game seriously -- that's why we're 23-5," said Wyoming's best player, Charles Bradley, when asked about chances of a flat effort against the Bison (17-11).

Wyoming Coach Jim Brandenburg, who has not seen Howard play, took a crash course on the Bison from scouting reports. "They're very talented. That's the best adjective I've heard," said Brandenburg. "Dangerous, explosive, a good front line. They can be very tough."

Bradley, a senior from Edgewood, Md., is a veteran of the D.C. Urban Coalition summer basketball league. He at least knows Howard fields a basketball team, for among his opponents were Larry Spriggs, James Ratiff and Rodney Wright, who will be in the Bison starting lineup.

"I don't know what they do as far as a team, but they've got lots of talent," Bradley said. "From what I've heard, I categorize them as the same type of team as Nevada-Las Vegas. Lots of talent, but sometimes they don't play together well."

In its last regular season game, Wyoming beat UNLV, 97-70.

Hardly a nationally known power, Wyoming, the cochampion of the Western Athletic Conference, nevertheless raised eyebrows with recent consecutive wins over Brigham Young and Utah. The Cowboys have won six straight.

The main reason is Bradley, who spurned the Atlantic Coast Conference -- unlike his older brother Dudley, a star at North Carolina -- for the freedom to show his moves in the wide-open spaces.

"The ACC is more of a coaches' conference," Bradley said. "They don't let the athletes expose their talents as much."

Bradley, known as "Tub" for his unguardlike size -- 6-foot-5, 210 pounds -- leads the Cowboys in scoring with a 19-point average and shoots 54.5 percent from the field. His bulk and shooting touch make him particularly difficult to defend.

"If they put a little guy on him, he'll take him inside," Brandenburg said. "And if they put a big guy on him, he'll go outside."

Joining Bradley in the back court is 6-3 point guard Mike Jackson (9.4). The forwards are 6-8 Bill Garnett (13.9, 6.9 rebounds), and top rebounder Ollie (10.3, 8.8), 6-6 leaper. Wyoming plays two centers equally. Engler, a seven-footer, and 6-10 Greg Thisnevitz have combined for 12 points and nine rebounds per game.

All the starters except Jackson shoot over 50 percent from the field. They like to run and have been known to mix it up inside.

Howard arrived early Wednesday morning, and practiced at Pauley in the afternoon. "They're still up in the clouds about being in L.A.," Bison Coach A.B. Williamson said. "We're going to make sure they start thinking about their opponent."