The Big East is the manly basketball conference; the ACC is cerebral. The Big East is the shot-and-beer league; the ACC is chianti. The ACC is four corners; the Big East is two falls out of three. The ACC is a Brad Daugherty jump-hook; the Big East is a Walter Berry slam-jam.

You hear that sort of talk. People get typed, squeezed into style holes whether they fit comfortably or not. It is getting that way now with the two best college basketball leagues east of Steubenville and north of Savannah.

They play harder in the Big East, we're told. They dive more often after loose balls, and each other. The ACC is Dean's mind; the Big East is John's fist. If they were sections of a basketball orchestra, the ACC would be the woodwinds. The Big East would bang the drums.

Seems a bit too simple to this simple mind. As Coach Charles would put it: I dunno, you know. There is a kernel of truth, surely, although not as large as should be imagined.

My problem with opinion bordering on doctrine is that two eyes and a memory usually keep cracking the cement.

Near midcourt at Capital Centre Wednesday night, in a nest of blue blazers and khaki slacks, I watched a terrific game between Georgetown and Syracuse of the, ah, Big Beast.

Syracuse played zone defense. The . . . entire . . . 40 . . . minutes. Coaches who never leave a zone might be inclined to wear a belt and suspenders, and also keep their thumbs tucked in the keepers. A fella never knows when a 500-pound pants snatcher with scissors might bolt from the stands.

The reason Syracuse stayed in that zone, Coach Jim Boeheim explained, was deep concern over the havoc Georgetown's "perimeter players" might cause in man-to-man.

Perimeter players?

You mean fairly mortal-looking guys who would sooner shoot over opponents and slip around them than barrel through them? Wimpy jump shooters? The same. John Thompson also was worried about that notion becoming too popular.

He and the Hoyas dedicated their sweaty lives in the gym the last several days to foiling that theory.

"Truth time," he called it.

What Thompson meant to prove was that games can be won with one-dimensional teams. Lots of games, in fact. But championships come only to the diverse.

Georgetown sneaked the ball inside the first several times down the court against Syracuse. It eventually worked. The Hoyas' undervalued center, Ralph Dalton, shot more often and made more field goals than the more celebrated Syracuse center, Rony Seikaly.

Other Georgetown giants also scored. Not routinely, but often enough to provide a three-point victory important enough, early in the conference season, for Thompson to show fists-in-the-air emotion rarely seen before mid-March.

"Can't keep talkin' 'We're good,' " he said, "and not win (over a highly rated conference team)."

Boeheim was startled.

"I've seem them (Georgetown's inside players) miss a lotta layups lately," he said. "Tonight, they're makin' hooks, movin' and slidin'. I thought Patrick (Ewing) was out there for a minute."

The Hoyas' Dalton and Johnathan Edwards had four fouls with more than 15 minutes left in the second half, but it was Seikaly who eventually fouled out.

"He's not strong enough (yet) to master the push position," said Boeheim, creating a refreshingly accurate term for center.

Even against that zone, Georgetown got lobs for dunks. Among them was the final slammer, by David Wingate, that all but assured victory. It wasn't funny, but Boeheim smiled.

"We'd been very successful (against the lob) with Patrick," he said. "I think he only got a couple in four years. Maybe we didn't think about it enough (with Ewing gone) . . . There's being there -- and there's making the play."

Thompson saw too much ballet in Georgetown; Boeheim wants more brute in Syracuse. Without a blending of both, all teams struggle and eventually get eliminated in the NCAA tournament.

Stereotypes also usually get blown away about the time they're formed. Power players such as Ewing and Michael Graham leave; smart coaches such as Thompson adjust to whatever remains.

Betcha Ewing could have played for Dean Smith. Betcha Thompson could have found a way to feature Michael Jordan. If Gary Williams had a half-dozen 7-footers, as North Carolina does, full-court pressure might be purged from the Boston College playbook.

Georgetown still gets into too much fist-flailing. But the most swaggering, ill-tempered team I ever hope to see was one of Frank McGuire's at South Carolina.

That's when South Carolina still was in the ACC. In Columbia once, Terrapin and Gamecock bodies started colliding in anger -- and peacemaker Driesell said he suffered a haymaker from the untoward forward John Ribock.

Coyly, McGuire later said films showed nothing of the sort, that the way he figured it the Maryland coach must have punched himself in the eye.

The successful coaches, which is to say coaches who stay employed long enough for clothes to go in and out of fashion at least once, adapt best. They play to the strengths of who happens to be available that season. They create possibilities few of us imagine.

I became hooked on basketball Dec. 3, 1960, in a most unlikely place, Penn State, and by a player lightly regarded at the time and long forgotten by most by now, Mark DuMars.

A powerful dose of DuMars shot into me that night. Here was a player perhaps 6 feet, with a funny-looking jumper he seemed to release from the back of his neck. Anyway, he took a 6-9 Olympian, Purdue's Terry Dischinger, down low and came away with 31 points.

I have been alert for the endless possibilities of basketball ever since, and a bit tart with anyone too rigid in his thinking for too long.

In basketball, change almost always comes with each fresh season. Sometimes, as Thompson showed the other night, it is as close as the next tipoff.