HONOLULU, DEC. 26 -- Billy Tubbs had just finished his nightly "we've-got-a-long-way-to-go" speech and was heading for the door of Blaisdell Arena to enjoy what was left of Christmas.

Georgia Coach Hugh Durham, whose Bulldogs had just played Tubbs' Oklahoma team to the wire before losing, 93-90, in the final round of the round-robin Chaminade Christmas Classic, spotted Tubbs just as he reached the exit.

"Hey, Tubbs," he yelled. "Like it or not, I'm voting you No. 1 next week."

Tubbs raised his hands in mock horror and walked out. Evidently, the thought of being No. 1 didn't shake him. Evidently, he thinks he has a team with that kind of potential. After three nights here, he was not alone.

The Sooners annihilated Virginia, 109-61, embarrassed Dayton, 151-99, then showed grit down the stretch to escape a hot-shooting Georgia team. If Tubbs thinks his team has a long way to go, the three coaches he beat here this week -- Durham, Terry Holland and Don Donoher -- disagree.

"Actually, I think the question with them is whether they can get very much better than they're playing right now," Holland said. "Other teams will get better between now and March. I'm really not sure that Oklahoma can get much better. I'll say one thing though: if they do, it will be frightening. Right now, they're just scary."

In some ways, this is the prototype of the kind of team Tubbs has put on the floor since arriving at Oklahoma eight years ago. The Sooners are remarkably quick, they all can shoot the ball and they push the ball up the floor so quickly that if the defense bats an eye the ball will be in the basket.

But this team has an added dimension: defense. "We make our offense with our defense," said Harvey Grant, the 6-8 former Clemson player who was MVP of the tournament here. "We score a lot because our defense gives us so many easy baskets."

It is that fullcourt pressure defense that has coaches like Durham, Holland and Donoher wondering just how good Oklahoma is.

"If you get 'em into a halfcourt game, they can be beaten," Durham said Christmas night. "We did that to some extent and that's why we had a chance to win. But they can absolutely kill you with their pressure. "I honestly don't believe any team in the country could do to Virginia and Dayton on back-to-back nights what they did. No one. It isn't as if those are bad teams."

Holland didn't believe anyone could do to his team what the Sooners did, scoring 27 straight points to start the second half and eventually increasing the run to 43-4. "What makes them so tough is that they have two big men who can score, not just one and if you sag on them they'll absolutely kill you with the three-point shot," he said. "We just didn't have any answers."

The man with the answers is Tubbs, who has a reputation for recruiting great athletes and letting them play. He came to Oklahoma in 1980 and went 9-19 his first year. But since then, the Sooners have had six straight 20-victory seasons and been to the NCAA tournament five years in a row.

The "but" line in the Tubbs story is the tournament. In 1984, with Wayman Tisdale a sophomore, Oklahoma dominated the Big Eight, won 29 games and was upset by Dayton in the second round of the NCAAs. The next year, Tisdale's last, they reached the final eight, but lost in the last minute to Memphis State, finishing 31-5. When Tisdale left, a lot of people expected Oklahoma to fade. No way.

"We know we've got players," said point guard Ricky Grace. "We're still learning. Coach Tubbs is right when he says we have to get better."

Because the Sooners play as if they won't get fed if they fail to score 100 points (they are seven for 10 this season with highs of 152 and 151) and because they wear warmups that say things like "Amazing" (Grace), "General" (Grant), and "Creator" (Andre Wiley), they have a reputation for being undisciplined. Naturally, when a team has that reputation all eyes turn to the coach, especially when he has a reputation for swaggering a bit and has made some enemies (he has made obscene gestures to the crowd in two Big Eight arenas).

"I don't think that's fair," said Durham, who has a reputation for discipline. "People see a team set a bunch of screens and hold the ball a while and screen again and they say that's discipline. Maybe t is.

"But to me discipline is having players who do what they are told to do. Tubbs' players are told to race down court every time they can. They do that. He has great athletes who play together. By me, that's discipline."

In Grant and Stacey King, Tubbs has inside players who can run the floor, catch the ball and score. His guards are small: Mookie Blaylock, 6-0, and Grace, 6-1. It was Blaylock who grabbed the key offensive rebound in the final seconds of the Georgia game. He finished with 30 points.

Both Grant and King are averaging 20 points a game. The odyssey that brought Grant to Oklahoma helps explain the Sooners' image. He began college with twin brother Horace at Clemson and flunked out after his freshman year. From there, he went to Independence Junior College, where he averaged 22.4 points a game.

Everyone recruited him and Kentucky got him. But after committing to Kentucky, Grant changed his mind at the last minute and ended up at Oklahoma. "I just changed my mind," is all he will say.

Harvey Grant says he's glad things worked out the way they did because he felt he was in his brother's shadow at Clemson. Now that his brother plays for the Chicago Bulls, how would he feel if the Bulls drafted him?

"Well, I'd go," he said. "If I had to."

Friday, with King and Grace in foul trouble, Grant took over the inside, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds. "What makes their big men special," said Durham, "is what they do on the break. A lot of big men can rebound and block shots. A lot of them will run the floor. But these guys run the floor and catch the ball and shoot it. That's unusual."

Tubbs doesn't mind the December accolades, but having been through this before (Oklahoma was 17-0 three years ago) isn't getting too caught up in it. "I'm not surprised we're 10-0," he said. "And if we finish 37-0, I won't be surprised by that either. We have the talent to play with anybody. We have the ability to beat anyone we play. But that doesn't mean we will.

"We still aren't very big and we aren't going to rebound like some of the teams I've had in the past. But this is the quickest team I've ever had and it has a chance to be the best defensively. Tonight {Georgia} will help us because we saw we can play to the wire, play a halfcourt kind of game and still win."

By nature, Tubbs is confident, almost cocky. Thursday, after the Dayton game, he forgot himself and made the comment that, "this team could score 170 some night."

That is the kind of remark Tubbs took pains to avoid all week. He praised his opponents after thumping them, said his team was lucky and hot and caught the other guys on a bad night. Butter would have melted in his mouth. He insisted Friday that Missouri was the most talented team in the Big Eight.

Through it all, Tubbs never stopped smiling. If the smile is still there in March, the butter may be nowhere in sight.