One of the beauties of college basketball is that teams like DePaul, Texas-El Paso, Georgetown, and Memphis State appear in the national rankings. You'd never expect to find their like in football's Top 20, and not simply because DePaul doesn't have a football program either, but because schools like this don't really have much chance of joining the nation's gridiron elite.
In football, where tradition and massive funding are so important, the same schools tend to achieve national prominence year after year. In basketball, however, things are much more democratic in the sense that so many schools enjoy a real shot. A few quality players is all it takes to completely turn a team's fortunes around and attract a measure of national attention. Football famers, bowls
* A new class of Hall of Famers was unveiled the day before the Super Bowl, and two of the electees were on the sidelines coaching for their former teams. Defensive back Willie Brown is an assistant with the Los Angeles Raiders, wide receiver Charley Taylor an assistant with Washington. Joining them in the Canton, Ohio, shrine will be Cleveland tackle Mike McCormack and New York Giants defensive lineman Arnie Weinmeister. Brown and Taylor, it is hoped, will be given serious consideration for future head coaching jobs in a league still awaiting its first black head coach.
* Washington quarterback Joe Theismann experienced the extremes of victory and defeat on consecutive Sundays. One week he was on the losing side of the most lopsided Super Bowl in history, the next week his three touchdown passes led the NFC to a 45-3 victory over the AFC in the most one-sided Pro Bowl game ever.
* Writing in the Sporting News, Furman Bisher makes a good point about too much importance being placed on college football bowl games. He views them as an appendix to the season, not the dramatic culmination. The four- to five-week break preceding bowl games makes it difficult to call any of them a ''championship.'' Therefore, he figures Nebraska was No. 1 for the 1983 season, Miami possibly No. 1 on Jan. 2, when it beat the Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl.
* It may be time to make field goals harder to kick. National Football League placekickers hit on 551 of 769 tries this past season for an accuracy percentage of .717, highest in modern times. This figure is apt to increase, threatening to make kicking specialists ever more important. As it is they usually lead the league in scoring, which seems odd considering how little they play. In 1974 the NFL moved the goalposts 10 yards back, from the goal line to the end line. The next step in the evolutionary process may be to make a smaller target by moving the posts closer together or simply devaluing field goals from three to two points. On 76ers, OTs, sharpshooter
* The Philadelphia 76ers won the playoffs with such ease last year that many thought they would dominate the current NBA season. It hasn't worked that way, however, and Coach Billy Cunningham thinks he may know why. ''Other teams are playing us more emotionally this season,'' he says. The 76ers, who trail Boston by several games in their division, have understandably found some of their emotion missing, and the batteries may not be recharged until the playoffs.
* A basketball team shouldn't be able to win in overtime without taking a shot, but that happened in Indiana's recent 73-68 win over Illinois. The Hoosiers controlled the tap, held the ball until fouled, and scored 12 points in the extra stanza, all on free throws. Something should be done to prompt more shooting than stalling in O.T.- a situation where a shot clock could really help.
* Despite playing an antiquated six-on-six version of girls basketball, Iowa has a history of developing tremendous high school shooters. One is Drake University's Lorri Bauman, who recently set a women's single-game college scoring record with 58 points. An injured ankle kept her from working inside against Southwest Missouri State, so the 6 ft. 3 in. forward did most of her damage from the perimeter, hitting an amazing 27 of 33 from the field and 4 of 5 foul shots.