DURHAM, N.C., FEB. 7 -- As the ranked teams continue to fall like dominoes in college basketball, it seems that almost everyone will get a shot at No. 1 before the season is over. This week, the likely ascendant is Temple, which will probably jump over Arizona, Nevada-Las Vegas, Brigham Young and Duke -- all losers last week -- into the top spot.

And why not? The Owls, with only a one-point loss at Nevada-Las Vegas, have balance, depth and experience. A lot of attention has been focused on their superb freshman guard Mark Macon, but it should be noted that Macon is shooting 45 percent from the field and a lot of the reason he has been able to do as much as he has done is the presence in the backcourt of senior point guard Howard Evans.

Evans and center Tim Perry are the glue on this team and Macon is the flash. Still, as with all the other contenders, the test for Temple will come in March. The Owls have lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament four straight years. In the meantime, their game Wednesday at home against city arch-rival Villanova should be a fascinating one since Rollie Massimino has put some bite back into the Wildcats (16-6) this season.Duke Tougher on Road

People talk about how tough it is to play in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Here's an interesting statistic, though: since Mike Krzyzewski became Duke's coach eight years ago, the Blue Devils have a 15-17 record in home games decided by fewer than five points. By contrast, the Blue Devils are 22-12 in five-points-or-fewer decisions outside of Cameron during Krzyzewski's tenure.

"Maybe in a close game the other team feels like it has nothing to lose because it isn't supposed to win here," Krzyzewski said after Duke's 77-74 loss to N.C. State Saturday.

"I think we concentrate better on the road," said team captain Billy King. The record this season would seem to back that up: the Blue Devils are 3-0 on the road in ACC play, including a one point win at North Carolina, and 2-2 at home, both the losses by three points in games where they collapsed during the last few minutes . . .

Dean Smith is at it again. After North Carolina's 24-point victory at Clemson -- he had said before the game that "we would be thrilled with a one-point victory" -- he declared his team was not good enough to make the Final Four and in fact, "not a good team."

The Tar Heels are struggling along at 16-3. At least one expert disagrees with Smith's poor-mouthing. "Dean is sitting right where he wants to," NBC's Al McGuire said. "He's got a very good team and he isn't getting that much attention."

Another coach in that situation is N.C. State's Jim Valvano. Valvano often sounds like a funny version of Smith the way he puts his team down but pro scouts here for the game Saturday agreed that the Wolfpack has four players who will probably be No. 1 draft picks in the future: Vinny Del Negro, Charles Shackleford, Chucky Brown and Rodney Monroe. By contrast, Duke, ranked so high, has one No. 1 -- Danny Ferry.

Valvano and Krzyzewski do agree on one thing: both want to come back in their next life as the coach at Notre Dame. Consider this: the Irish play 18 home games this season and their road games are spaced so comfortably they are always ready to play. Today, they played Duke -- playing for the fourth time this week and the second time in 24 hours -- not having played since Tuesday.

With all of that, the Irish came to Duke 12-6 and even though the rest of their schedule is filled with easy targets, Notre Dame hasn't beaten a top team since Louisville and that was in the Cardinals' opener.Allen Likely Coach at Tech

The odds are that Frankie Allen, who has a 15-6 record as Virginia Tech's interim coach, will be given a contract at season's end as Tech's coach. The Hokies cannot play in the postseason because of NCAA probation but they're having a lot of fun. Saturday, they beat Southern Mississippi, 141-133, in double overtime with guard Wally Lancaster, from Coolidge High, and Bimbo Coles combining for 90 points. The two of them took 59 shots, hitting 29. By the way, the two teams took 55 three-point shots. But remember, the line isn't too close, right? . . .

In case you haven't noticed: George Mason has won seven straight, the most recent at East Carolina Saturday, and the Patriots are tied for first place in the Colonial Athletic Association with Richmond and North Carolina-Wilmington, thanks to suddenly hot Navy upsetting the Spiders Saturday. If George Mason can win at Wilmington on Monday (the Seahawks won at Mason last month) the game in the Patriot Center against Richmond Saturday could be the biggest in school history . . .

Conversation of the week: Referee Joe Forte to Richmond Coach Dick Tarrant: "Your wingtip is over the {coach's box} line, Dick."

Tarrant: "Joe, don't you have better things to do than look at my feet?"

P.S.: Forte was kidding. So was Tarrant . . .

If, as rumored, Rutgers makes a coaching change at the end of the season -- although one would hope that Craig Littlepage survives -- look for Bob Wenzel to be a top candidate. Wenzel, now with the New Jersey Nets, graduated from Rutgers and is right down the road if a change is made.The Upset Pick

The Upset Pick expects a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue this week. After all, N.C. State beating Duke is far more impressive than winning a Super Bowl tainted by the players strike, isn't it? Even if you disagree, the record is 7-9. This week, a double-dip: Villanova goes into Temple and knocks the Owls out of No. 1 Wednesday, and the revived Indiana Hoosiers go to Michigan Saturday and shock the Wolverines.