Usually the player who leads the nation in scoring is someone along the lines of Mike Helms of Oakland or Henry Domercant of Eastern Illinois.

Somebody you've never heard of, from a school whose nickname you might or might not know.

The name Ruben Douglas ought to ring a bell.

He started for Arizona in 1999 alongside fellow freshmen Richard Jefferson and Michael Wright.

Then he was gone, transferring to New Mexico after freshman Gilbert Arenas beat him out at shooting guard the next season.

You'll find Arizona at No. 1 in the polls now; Arenas and Jefferson are NBA veterans. And Douglas? He has resurfaced at No. 1 in the NCAA scoring statistics, averaging 28.5 points per game as a senior for the Lobos after bolstering his lead with a 43-point performance in a loss Monday to San Diego State.

As the season winds down, New Mexico is 9-15. Douglas is one shooting star you don't figure to see in the NCAA tournament.

Meantime, Luke Walton and his cohorts are ready to try to win a national championship, as Douglas is well aware.

"Aw, man, that's your goal when you come to college, to get a ring," he said. "But that's a closed chapter in my life. Right now I don't even know the new guys. Mostly I cheer for my boy Luke. They're winning, and I just want him to do well.

"I made a statement when I left Arizona that it was a great program before I got there, it was great when I was recruited there and it would be great after I left. I just needed to go my own way."

Douglas, who led California high school players with a 34.8 scoring average as a senior at Burbank Bell-Jeff in 1998, is not the only talented player to leave the Arizona program in search of playing time.

Strike That

The new chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee, Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood, is backing off comments that implied teams with less than a .500 record in their conference will be particularly hard-pressed to earn at-large bids.

"There is no mathematical line," Livengood said. "There is no rule or principle we have that talks about not being able to have a team in the tournament with less than a .500 record [in its conference].

"It's a perception by some that teams with less than a .500 record shouldn't be in the tournament. If there's a misperception, it needs to be blamed on me."

But before teams such as Indiana and Alabama breathe any easier, they should keep in mind that while it might not be a hard-and-fast rule, it is often a line of demarcation.

Hoosiers fans are up in arms over a team that is 16-10 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten after losing Tuesday to Illinois by 26 points, leaving Coach Mike Davis criticizing the defensive efforts of players who have not lived up to their reputations as dead-eye shooters either. The last team to fail to make the tournament the year after playing for the NCAA title was Syracuse, in 1997.

Alabama has recovered some, but is trying to avoid going from the nation's top-ranked team to the National Invitation Tournament. The Crimson Tide is 15-9 overall, 5-8 in the Southeastern Conference.

One factor that could help such teams is the parity that has resulted in in major conferences, with several teams around the .500 mark. Unless the committee makes a major shift in favor of mid-majors over middle-of-the-pack teams from major conferences, a few teams at .500 and even below figure to get in.

"Our charge as a committee is to select the best 34 at-large teams," Livengood said. "The factors include the rankings of our regional advisory committee of coaches, Division I record, the overall RPI, nonconference record, nonconference RPI, conference record, road record, record in the last 10 games, injuries to key players and records against other teams that are under consideration.

"Basically those factors all have the same weight."

A Gesture Topped With a Bow

Here's to Mount St. Mary's Coach Jim Phelan, who coached his final regular season game Saturday after 49 seasons. In tribute to the only coach to have won more than 800 games and not be a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a number of coaches around the country have pledged to wear bow ties Saturday, as is Phelan's tradition. Among the coaches expected to participate: Rick Barnes of Texas, Bob Huggins of Cincinnati and Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma, who plans to wear a bow tie on his shirt pocket instead of around his neck. . . .

In a bold but probably necessary move, Florida Coach Billy Donovan made what might prove one of the crucial decisions of the season by benching senior Brett Nelson in favor of freshman Anthony Roberson at point guard last week. Nelson, a West Virginia player once touted as the next Jerry West, was shooting 29 percent from the field.

New Mexico's Ruben Douglas, who left Arizona to join the Lobos, leads the nation in scoring, but likely won't be heading to the NCAA tournament in March.