Rick Majerus, in his second time around as Utah's first-year head coach, says he's a new man. Some will contend that a 16-1 record and No. 23 national ranking -- after last night's Western Athletic Conference victory over Wyoming -- will do that to a person.

Majerus tells a different story. "Heart surgery will do that to you," he said. "Next to that, {a winning record} doesn't mean very much."

Basketball, Majerus concedes, hasn't held the same importance for him since December 1989. He was 4-2 as the Utes' new head coach when his heart problems were discovered. He had bypass surgery and a lengthy recovery while assistant Joe Cravens guided Utah to a 16-14 season that included an upset of Brigham Young in the WAC tournament.

Majerus once delivered many of college basketball's best one-liners -- and his sense of humor certainly has remained intact, even while discussing his health problems. An anecdote he often tells is of going to jog in Los Angeles "only . . . in the rich neighborhoods, where they have . . . rich doctors and fancy equipment."

He has slimmed down considerably from his pre-surgery days; he's no longer the chubby, lovable figure who led Ball State to a 43-17 record over two seasons (including a 29-3 campaign in 1988-89 that had even alum David Letterman singing the team's praises). A post-operation return to Ball State last year produced more tears of joy than laughs.

"I'm certainly not the same guy," Majerus said. "Facing up to your mortality does that to you. I don't think I ever exactly believed the world revolves around basketball, but I guess my world kind of did. Now I don't need to make a joke to smile about things. I smile just because I'm alive.

"If I'm over on the sideline about to yell at someone or feeling myself turning red in the face, I just sit down on the bench and reevaluate my priorities a little bit. Basketball is a wonderful thing, but it's not worth killing yourself over."

Name Game

Winner: Gym Bice, a sophomore guard from Texas-El Paso who was born James Douglas Bice but changed his first name while in high school. In a dead heat for second place: LaBradford Smith (Louisville), LaPhonso Ellis (Notre Dame), LaMonte Ware (Austin Peay), LaCoby Phillips (Santa Clara), LaKeith Humphrey (Central Missouri State) and LeRon Ellis (Syracuse). . . .

Causing considerable confusion this season at Western Michigan are twin forwards Sean and Shawn Wightman. To alleviate some of the chaos, Sean pronounces his name "Seen." Western Michigan's second-year coach Bob Donewald should be able to tell them apart -- although maybe not in action. He recruited them while he was at Illinois State, but they redshirted as freshmen in 1988-89. Then when Donewald left for Western Michigan, they transferred to the school -- and had to sit out last season as well. . . .

All five of the Southeastern Conference games this past week were won by the visiting team. So far this season visiting teams are 12-14 in SEC play. . . . Stanford gained its fifth consecutive victory over UCLA on Wednesday night -- something the Cardinal had not achieved since 1940-42, when it defeated the Bruins six straight times -- twice in '40-41, then all four meetings in '41-42 as part of its run to the national title.

By the Numbers

East Tennessee State and the NCAA aren't sure about the historical significance of this, but before this season ends, the 15th-ranked Buccaneers should have five active players with 1,000 or more career points. Senior Greg Dennis (1,702 points), senior Keith "Mister" Jennings (1,583) and junior Calvin Talford (1,129) have reached that mark, and seniors Alvin West (960) and Major Geer (944) are closing in. . . .

Kansas has shot 50 percent or better from the field in 57 of 80 games under Coach Roy Williams. . . . Holy Cross's 6-foot-10 senior center Jim Nairus has made 30 of 60 three-point shots this season. . . .

It happened back on New Year's Eve, but it's still worth mentioning: In a game at Loyola Marymount (where else?), La Salle junior guard Randy Woods, senior guard Doug Overton and junior forward Jack Hurd combined to outscore the Lions. Woods had 46 points, Overton 45 and Hurd 29 as the Explorers won, 133-118. . . .

American University senior guard Brock Wortman is ranked seventh in free throw percentage. He has made 40 of 44. . . . Duquesne has outscored each of its 13 opponents from the field this season. But despite their upset victory over Temple on Wednesday, the Dukes are just 4-9 -- in part because they are shooting 54.4 percent from the free throw line.

Car Trouble

Arizona freshman guard Khalid Reeves, a New York native, has had several fender-benders while learning to drive a manual transmission car. His explanation to the Arizona Republic: "It's these people in Tucson. They can't drive." . . .

De Paul has an 8-6 record created through a four-game winning streak that was followed by a five-game losing streak that was followed by a four-game winning streak that was followed by a loss to Northern Illinois, which is followed by a game Saturday against Texas. . . .

To honor Coach Wimp Sanderson and his favorite color, Alabama has painted the center circle at Coleman Coliseum plaid.