While this town has been agog over the Bears for the past month, the one-time heroes of the Midway -- not the '63 Bears -- have fallen on trying times.

Remember De Paul? Remember Ray Meyer, America's Grandfather? Mark Aguirre? Terry Cummings? Year in, year out, the Blue Demons would run up about 25 victories, then fail in the NCAA tournament. But each year they would be forgiven, because who could stay angry at America's Grandfather?

He retired two seasons ago after another 27-3 season ended in NCAA disappointment and, quite properly, passed the program on to his son Joey, the major architect of the De Paul resurgence. The Blue Demons, it seemed, would march on.

But last year, after a 6-0 start, De Paul finished 19-10, the first time since 1977 that it did not win 20 games. This year, the Blue Demons are 9-4. Saturday, they were beaten at home by Notre Dame, 70-54. It was the second time this year -- the first was against Georgetown -- that De Paul was embarrassed on national television.

"They're still searching for the right blend," Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, charitably. "They'll find it."

Whether they will find it this year is questionable. Meyer is starting two talented freshman guards but is experienced up front. Yet the experienced players -- Dallas Comegys, Marty Embry, Lemone Lampley and Kevin Holmes -- not only have been inconsistent but have appeared at times to not play hard.

Meyer isn't about to criticize his players publicly, but these are frustrating times for him. He has talked repeatedly about continuing to work to try to get better in time for the NCAA tournament in March. But if De Paul doesn't right itself soon, there will be no NCAA tournament. The schedule for the second half of the season is tougher than the first and, to date, De Paul has yet to show that it can beat a good team.

Meyer has a four-year contract and isn't going anywhere, but job security isn't likely to lessen the self-imposed pressure that is going to build if his team doesn't show signs of shaking its lethargy soon.

On the subject of Notre Dame: The Irish have played extremely well since losing early to Indiana, winning their last seven. They finally are getting good play up front from Jim Dolan (11 rebounds Saturday) and Tim Kempton, but the star continues to be David Rivers. Perhaps no guard in the country handles the ball as much as Rivers, who had 24 points, seven assists and seven rebounds on Saturday.

There are some people who feel that Phelps makes a mistake by letting Rivers handle the ball so much. But for the most part, the precocious sophomore has justified Phelps' faith in him. Rivers often is asked if he plans to leave Notre Dame early to turn professional but says he has no plans to do so. In fact, he went to summer school to make sure he remained on schedule for graduation.

Expect Delray Brooks, the sophomore guard who left Indiana last week because of lack of playing time, to turn up at North Carolina State or Providence. N.C. State already has one Indiana transfer, Mike Giomi, in school -- he will be eligible next year -- and Brooks knows Providence Coach Rick Pitino from his days at the Five Star basketball camp.

Quote of the week: Villanova's Rollie Massimino, after Syracuse sophomore center Rony Seikaly had manhandled his tiny team, 80-57, responding to a question about Seikaly's becoming a dominant player: "Was Seikaly dominant? Sure. You know why he was dominant? Because Eddie Pinckney wasn't here."

The Upset Pick isn't doing very well, now 3-5 after George Mason was wiped out by West Virginia. Staying on the local front, the prediction is that John Thompson scares the Hoyas half to death this week and Georgetown upsets Syracuse on Wednesday.