Elmer Hodges, a member of the University of Maryland's Fastbreakers Club, walked up to Lefty Driesell this morning as he was finishing breakfast to ask him about a Christmas Party for the basketball team.

"Christmas Party?" Driesell said. "When?"

"Well," Hodges said, "I thought tomorrow sometime, you know, Christmas Day."

"Tomorrow," Driesell said firmly, "We got a game. We ain't over here to have Christmas parties."

Lest you think Driesell is playing Scrooge, listen for a moment to his coaching opponent in Tuesday's opening game of the Rainbow Classic, Iowa's George Raveling:

"I told our kids this is a business trip," Raveling said. "They aren't allowed to swim, they aren't allowed to stay in the sun. We're here to win three basketball games."

In short, for the eight teams that are here for this 20th annual tournament, Hawaii is a look-but-don't-touch proposition.

All the teams are staying at Waikiki Beach Hotels. The ocean is a few feet away. But as they reach the lobby level, instead of turning right to go to the beach, they are turning left and going to practice.

Raveling took his team straight from the airport Sunday to a 2 1/2-hour workout. Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins, whose team doesn't play until Wednesday, had two practices today. Driesell had his team, which flew 15 hours Sunday to get here, on the court at 8:45 a.m. Then the players ate and had a two-hour break before Driesell had them in his room to look at film.

"We got three games to play and I ain't gonna treat this like a vacation," Driesell said. "The team that wins this tournament (there are four top-20 teams here) will probably be ranked in the top 10. This is important."

Asked how much time he would give his players to play tourist, Driesell answered with a smile: "Depends how we play."

The Terrapins (8-1) will have to play well to beat Iowa. The Hawkeyes, one of the major disappointments in the country last season, Raveling's first (13-15), are 9-1 and beginning to realize some of the potential that made them Big Ten favorites a year ago.

"We're a lot better in a lot of ways than last year," said Raveling, who will be coaching against Driesell, his former boss, for the first time since he left Maryland 12 years ago.

"I was naive when I got to Iowa," Raveling said. "At Washington State, I didn't have one press conference in 11 years. We just won (23-7 his last season) and everything was pleasant.

"When I got to Iowa, I was having two press conferences a week, doing a two-hour call-in show and taking one phone call after another. Then when we lost a couple of games, the wheels sort of came off. The letters came and I overreacted to them and things got worse.

"It wasn't until the end of the season that I think people realized we had been overrated. We were not a top 20 team last year but people didn't know that."

The reason people picked Iowa in the top five at the start of last season was the inside nucleus of 6-foot-10 Greg Stokes and 6-11 Michael Payne. Both had been a major part of Lute Olson's fifth straight 20-win season in 1983. Olson left for Arizona, Raveling came in and people expected more of the same.

It didn't happen.

"There were a lot of adjustments for everyone," Raveling said. "Besides my not understanding the intensity of sports in Iowa, the kids had to adjust to me. Lute was much more structured, he ran a passing game and walked it up. I like to run and go inside. He's not very emotional, I'm very emotional.

"It was a big change for everyone."

Mostly, it was a big change for Raveling. He had consulted with his two closest friends in coaching, Indiana's Bob Knight and Georgetown's John Thompson, before taking the job. Each had been somewhat hesitant but had finally given the same advice: "If you really want this job, take it."

Midway through the season, with the team struggling and Raveling under fire, it looked like a mistake. Then, in a game at Wisconsin, Raveling jumped off the bench, got dizzy and almost passed out.

He had to leave the game.

"It had happened at Washington State once or twice," said Raveling, who is 45. "I jump up so quick sometimes that the blood rushes to my head and I get dizzy. They tested me and it wasn't a heart problem or anything. I'm fine now."

So, it also seems, is his program.

Stokes and Payne, both finesse players, are playing better this season, their fourth straight together. Stokes is averaging 20.3 points a game, shooting 68 percent from the field and was 11 for 11 one game. Payne, although only scoring 7.4 points a game, is leading the team in rebounding (8.5) and, remarkably, assists.

The Hawkeyes' weakness last year was in the back court, where they lack a true point guard. But Raveling will shuffle four guards in and out and is deep up front, too, with 6-8 Gerry Wright averaging 10.4 points a game and 7-foot Brad Lohaus available off the bench.

What's more, the future is bright.

Four freshmen are getting playing time and Raveling already has four players signed for next season, including two rated in everyone's top 25.

"I think next to North Carolina, we have the best recruiting class in the country right now," Raveling said.

And Raveling, who was Knight's assistant during the Olympics last summer, is feeling much better about himself.

"When I got to Iowa, I thought I had already proved myself as a coach," he said. "Then, for a while I thought I had to prove myself all over again. Now, I know I'm a good coach."

"What's more," he said, glancing out the window at the beach below, "I think we may wake up and find out this is a pretty good team before the season's over."

Maryland and Iowa will play at 11:40 p.m. (EST) with Cornell (3-2) and Hawaii (3-4) playing the second game. The winners meet Thursday night, the losers Thursday afternoon.

The other half of the draw Wednesday has Washington (5-1) playing Iowa State (8-2) and Georgia Tech (6-1) playing Arkansas (8-1). Only Iowa State, of that foursome, was not in the top 20 last week.