Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian, faced with a tough game against the Soviet national team Saturday and the specter of an NCAA decision, received some good news yesterday. His Runnin' Rebels start the preseason where they ended last season: as the No. 1 team in college basketball.

"I expected us to be rated high, because we have four starters back from last year's team," Tarkanian said after his team, which won the NCAA championship with a 103-73 rout of Duke, was voted No. 1 in the Associated Press preseason poll. Georgetown was ninth, Virginia 18th.

"We feel we have a good team this year," Tarkanian said. "Whether we're number one or not I don't know, but we're up there with the best."

The rest of the top five: Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan State and North Carolina. Rounding out the top 10 are Duke, Alabama, Indiana, Georgetown and Ohio State.

The NCAA infractions committee may make a decision this week on whether the Rebels can defend their national title. The committee, in a July 20 decision, said the Rebels could not participate in postseason play in 1991. The edict was a final penalty growing out of a 14-year battle between Tarkanian and the NCAA. At a rehearing last month, the university suggested alternate penalties.