Before getting around to why Duke will beat Louisville for the NCAA title here Monday night, I thought you might like to know how Texas invented basketball. It did.

Same as it invented politics, Big Bidness, prime-time television drama and everything else vital to America, Texas devised our uniquely native sport.

How it happened was a couple of strapping football players were on their way to spring practice when one got to wondering why he wasn't being paid as much out of the booster club's slush fund as the other.

The underpaid guy became so livid that he took the football everybody in Texas carries everywhere and squeezed it. He squeezed so hard that the oblong piece of (Texas) cowhide rounded at the ends.

Still seething, he leaped in the air, raised the odd-shaped ball over his head and dunked it through the oil derrick they were walking by. His mood lightened and he said:

"Bubba, I think we got somethin' here."

The way matters have been going lately, one would think the host league for this basketball show also invented cheating. The Southwest Conference, you may recall, threatened to use lie detectors to ferret out bandits more than a decade or so ago.

Just yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reported instances of at least one coach for the sacred Texas Longhorns giving money to football players.

"We used to go by the coaches' office all the time because we were running short," said Don Holloway, a Longhorns tailback from 1981 to 1983. "We'd go to assistant Ken Dabbs. Sometimes he'd give you the money, or sometimes he'd say: 'Come back later' and he'd be gone."

A day earlier, the Houston Chronicle wrote about possible payoffs to former Houston basketball star Rob Williams.

Into all of this swill has come Duke, which is nicknamed Devils but carries a saintly athletic image. Other schools are as dignified; Duke happens to be on hand at an especially ugly moment for college sport.

Or so it would seem.

Truth is, this is the second straight championship game in which the teams at least play cerebrally. The 1985 finalists, Georgetown and Villanova, both have impressive graduation rates, too.

Duke has graduated 32 of its last 33 basketball players. Louisville is at a fairly impressive 70 percent, according to Coach Denny Crum, and dares to sacrifice won-lost records to gain the experience necessary to win the NCAA title.

Louisville is the team of the '80s at the moment, among the Final Four for the fourth time since this decade began.

In 1980, the Cardinals beat a team called "vacated" for the title. "Vacated" is what the NCAA chooses to call a school that gains prominence in its tournament and later gets convicted of cheating.

"Vacated" never has won the NCAA title, though it was runner-up and third in 1971. The "vacated" Crum's gang edged to start that '80s surge was the once-sacred school of basketball, UCLA.

Under Crum, Louisville has been stocked with versatile players comfortable with more than one position and more than one style.

Its frontline players are able to step outside either for reasonably long shots or for passes to guards taking advantage of mismatches. The little fellows also are capable down low.

Rodney McCray goes by the name of Billy Thompson these days. Darrell Griffith is known as Milt Wagner. This season's slender and underrated center is Pervis Ellison.

Louisville opened this NCAA tournament with an impressive victory and an honest observation. Of first-round opponent Drexel, Wagner asked: "What's that? One of those academic schools?"

Sort of.

Having won by 20 over Drexel, Louisville is going to have just a bit more than it can handle from another academic school. Make it Duke by a couple.

At the Final Four, the Blue Devils will follow their familiar NCAA pattern: play well enough to survive the opening test and well enough to win the second.

Few still are quite sure how Duke escaped Kansas in Saturday's semifinal, what with its two best inside players going seven for 25.

Probably, David Henderson and Mark Alarie will not be that awful offensively Monday. Undoubtedly, Alarie will be as relentless defensively against Thompson as he was against Danny Manning.

That is vital, for Duke wins most of its games on defense. And Alarie has been an exceptional defender throughout the playoffs.

In manner and technique, he resembles former New York Knick Dave DeBusschere. He keeps opponents honest from outside with usually reliable jumpers and keeps them woozy inside with that 220-pound body.

By overplaying Thompson, Alarie creates a very small target for a Louisville guard being hassled by Tommy Amaker. Thompson is 6-7; Alarie wants him to seem 2-6 to guard Jeff Hall.

The game presents nice intrigue, for a change. Two of the last three finals have been regarded as mismatches in which the eventual winners, North Carolina State and Villanova, had almost no chance.

Duke-Louisville is as even as anyone could want. All the Louisville players can score from nearly anywhere on the court. All the Duke players can keep that from happening -- and will. By something in the very low 70s to something in the very high 60s.