THE BIG 5 WAS about guards when it began. It is about guards today.

From Guy Rodgers to Scottie Reynolds, the city has always been known for its great guards. This season, we are overflowing with guards who can start plays, finish plays and make plays.

Some teams are playing three guards extensively. La Salle often plays four.

Temple seniors Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez make up one of the best backcourts in the country. Add in Khalif Wyatt and you have a group that is almost impossible to guard. Wait until Scootie Randall (listed as a forward, but plays like a guard) comes back. Sophomore Aaron Brown is starting to run and put up some numbers.

Are there many better underclass backcourts in the east than Saint Joseph's Carl Jones and Langston Galloway?

Well, they might argue at 20th and Olney for sophomores Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills. Add in Ramon Galloway and Earl Pettis and you have dangerous guards all over the court.

Penn's Zack Rosen, Miles Cartwright and Tyler Bernardini play so well together that watching them on offense is like seeing basketball ballet.

Under Jay Wright, Villanova has really been guard central. Maalik Wayns is in any discussion of the city's best guards this season. Dominic Cheek is sort of a power guard. Freshman Darrun Hilliard did not make any shots against Temple, but had been more than solid before that.

DID YOU KNOW?

* Creighton big man Gregory Echenique seriously considered Penn before going to Rutgers. Imagine those guards with that force in the middle. A classmate of Zack Rosen's at St. Benedict's in New Jersey, Echenique transferred during his second season at Rutgers.

* Boise State got a shot at LSU in Baton Rogue last Saturday. Shame it was hoops. LSU won it, 64-45.

* The Pac-10 (now with 12 teams) is 0-10 vs. ranked teams. Remember a few years ago when this was a must-see league?

* Rhode Island is 1-9 and just got crushed by Georgia State, 96-64. The previous four seasons, the Rams won 20, 26, 23 and 21.

* Butler is 4-6. Brad Stevens is still Coach of the Century, but even he couldn't keep up the final game madness. The Bulldogs lost to three of the unbeatens - Louisville, Indiana and Xavier. They also lost to Evansville, Valparaiso and Ball State. Check back in March. Maybe they will end up in New Orleans. First, they must get into the field of 68.

HOOSIERS

Not the movie, the team. Finally.

Kelvin Samson, a k a "The Phone Man," left a disaster for Tom Crean.

Crean's first few IU teams looked like something out of "Hoosiers" without Jimmy Chitwood. They looked like a team of Ollies and played like it.

IU won 28 games in Crean's first three seasons. This season, they are 9-0. What changed? Not much, other than terrific freshman Cody Zeller.

These players are the same players who lost all those games. One of the likely stars, Maurice Creek is out for the season with an Achilles' tear.

It is still early, and that win over Kentucky on Saturday is probably a bit of an aberration. But college hoops needs IU to be relevant. And, this season, it is.

THE TOWSON STORY

I walked into Towson's locker room an hour before the Tigers were going to play La Salle at Gola last Dec. 29 to see old friend Pat Kennedy.

We started talking about La Salle. I told the Towson coach that La Salle was talented enough to be in the game against just about anybody and uncommitted enough to keep just about anybody in the game. I told him his team might have a chance.

"You obviously haven't seen us play," Kennedy told me with a knowing smile.

Towson won, 93-90, in overtime. Kennedy walked off the court with a look of disbelief.

The man really did know his team.

Towson has not won since. It lost its next 19 games. The coach got fired.

Towson has lost its first nine this season. Lost to then-winless UMBC in a Baltimore classic on Saturday. If the Tigers don't beat Coppin tonight, they might not win for a while, if at all this season.

Last Wednesday, La Salle went to Towson and won, 89-51. Which may say just how far La Salle has come in a year. Towson sadly is even worse now than then, loser of 28 straight.

NICE SQUAD

Creighton's Doug McDermott, who was so impressive when he scored 26 points against Saint Joseph's on Saturday, was a high school teammate of North Carolina's Harrison Barnes at Ames (Iowa) High. McDermott, who plays for his dad Greg, averages 24.0 points, second nationally. Yes, they won a few Iowa state titles together.

By the way, Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg went to Ames High before becoming a major star at hometown Iowa State, where he is now the head coach. Imagine if Barnes and McDermott had stayed home. The Cyclones would have a nice squad, too.

NEVER SEEN THIS

No. 1 Syracuse has more steals (123) than turnovers (119). That really should be impossible. Yes, it leads the nation in steals and turnover margin.

THIS AND THAT

* Twenty-five players are averaging more than 20 points, including Penn's Zack Rosen (20.8). Thirty-six players are shooting 90 percent or better from the foul line. Rosen has made 49 of 53 (92.5 percent). St. Joe's Carl Jones averages 19.4 points. He is shooting 61 of 67 from the line (91 percent). In 73 career games, Jones, usually the smallest player on the court, has attempted an amazing 405 free throws.

* Chester High's Nasir Robinson (Pittsburgh) is shooting 69.7 percent from the field, fourth nationally.

* Through the weekend games, Villanova was ninth nationally in free throw shooting (77.6 percent).

* Saint Joe's is averaging 8.2 blocks per game, third nationally, behind Kentucky and Connecticut.

* Missouri is outscoring its opponents by 25.6 points per game, first in the country.

* Louisville is holding opponents to 83.8 points per 100 possessions, fourth nationally.

* Records often are deceiving. Long Beach State is 4-5. It lost at San Diego State (by four points in overtime), Louisville (close until the final minutes), Kansas (eight points) and North Carolina (six points). It won at Pittsburgh, giving the Panthers their only loss.

* Oklahoma State had four turnovers against Pittsburgh on Saturday and still got beat. Pitt, the best rebounding team in the country, crushed the Cowboys on the glass, 43-25.

* Oklahoma's Lon Kruger can become the first coach to take five different schools to the NCAA Tournament. He got there with Kansas State, Illinois, Florida and UNLV. This is technically his fifth different conference. He started in the old Big 8, then the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Mountain West. Now, he is in the Big 12, which, at the moment, has 10 teams and is essentially an expanded Big 8.