SOME SCHOOLS GO years, decades, forever, without sending a guy to a Division I basketball program.

Ss. Neumann-Goretti does so routinely, and this year the total of Division I-bound guys is four.

"Hey, it's not like any of them are 6-10," coach Carl Arrigale said, laughing.

Yeah, but they're all good and their presence makes the Saints a strong favorite for the Catholic League championship.

Let's see. There's Tony Chennault (Wake Forest), and Danny Stewart (Rider), and Tyreek Duren (La Salle), and Mustafaa Jones (Hartford). All but Stewart are guards and all but none have unfinished business.

N-G a year ago stormed to the CL title, but then was upset by Archbishop Carroll in the quarterfinal round of the AAA playoffs. The Patriots even surged onward and claimed the honor of being the league's first state champ.

"We didn't lose to a bad team," Arrigale said. "Carroll deserved that title. They only had three losses all season and two of them were to us. Maybe that loss falls on me. Maybe I let us get too full of ourselves. Carroll went on to do something great. We know that could have been us.

"As we go into this season, we know what's expected. The challenge is to keep the kids focused and grounded."

In the Blue Division, N-G's chief competition will come from Carroll and Archbishop Wood.

Each returns three strong contributors . . . For Carroll, they're slick guards DJ Irving (Boston U.) and Juan'ya Green and pogo-sticking forward Ben Mingledough, while Wood counters with distributor Joe Getz, agile inside man Fran Dougherty and enforcer Brian O'Grady.

The division also features do-it-all guards Brandyn Wims (Cardinal Dougherty) and Aquil Younger (West Catholic).

The Red Division might be a one-trick pony.

Roman Catholic boasts scoring-machine guard Rakeem "Rahk" Brookins (Tulane), blossoming big man Anthony Mayo (Boston U.) and football star Kevin Regan, who's hardly a hoops slouch. Also now part of the program is Montreal transplant Fortunat "Junior" Kangudi, a 6-8 bundle of talent who at one point was rumored to be headed for LeBron James' high school alma mater in Ohio.

Look for the Cahillites to give N-G everything it wants by playoff time.

In what could be (or not) its final year, North Catholic figures to make a statement despite the loss of four rotation guys to transfer. The leaders are guards Mike Terry (Boston U.; yes another future Terrier) and Woody Redding.

There are four new coaches: Guy Moore (North), Bill Day (Dougherty, also slated to fold), Tom Meakim (Monsignor Bonner) and Jack Walsh (Archbishop Wood). Also, Sean Tait, head man last year at Wood, has switched to his alma mater, Father Judge.

League play starts in about 10 days . . . well, except for games involving N-G tonight and Monday. They were moved up because the Saints leave Wednesday for a tournament in Hawaii. While there, they'll burn four of their six allowable nonleague games. Only in the PIAA. *