During the Utah Jazz's recent visit to Tokyo, the questions at a pregame press conference veered away from basketball when a Japanese reporter, through an interpreter, asked the Jazz players concerning their feelings about Salt Lake City and the Japanese resort town of Nagano being in competition for the 1998 Winter Olympics bid.

Karl Malone fielded the question, setting new standards for winter diplomacy in the process:"When you think about winter," said the Mailman, "you can really think about Salt Lake City. We (the Jazz players) can't ski ourselves, because Coach Sloan won't let us, but Utah skiing is still the best in the world. It's fantastic . . . Like I say, Utah is for winter, without a doubt. I'd like to invite you guys over to the U.S., 'cause we're going to get it."

SLEEPING IN THE REBELS' SHADOW: In the issue of Street & Smith's Basketball Yearbook now at the newsstands, Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram forecasts the Big West Conference and picks Utah State to finish sixth in the 10-team league. But with an asterisk.

"Looking for a sleeper to sneak into the top four spots of the Big West standings?" Burlison writes. "The Aggies might be your guys. Coach Kohn Smith returns five of his top six scorers, including four starters, from last season's team."

"Honestly, we could be a lot better than sixth," says USU Associate Athletic Director Craig Hislop, who not only cites the five returning scorers but transfer Jay Goodman, a 5-11 guard from Iowa State. "He can really shoot it," says Hislop. "He could be a big help."

Probably not enough to jump to the head of the class, however. Burlison's pick for the 1990-91 Big West champion is no surprise: UNLV.

AND THREE ARE AT HOME: Speaking of the Aggies, the Utah State football team plays at Cal State-Fullerton this week after thrashing New Mexico State in Logan last Saturday by a 55-10 score.

Fullerton figures to be a tougher challenge than New Mexico State. But not much tougher. According to the Div. I-A rankings that are published weekly in The National and include all 106 schools, New Mexico State ranks 106th in the nation and Cal-Fullerton 105th.

What's more, the Ags' next game is Nov. 17 in Logan against Pacific, ranked No. 91. Toss in the Aggies' game two weeks ago in Logan against UNLV, a squad ranked 96th, and you're looking at the easiest midseason schedule in college football.

WAXING NOSTALGIC: After Colorado State's 17-8 win over Wyoming last Saturday in Ft. Collins - a win CSU Coach Earle Bruce said was the most satisfying of his career - the shell-shocked Ram fans, remembering seasons of 1-10 and 2-9 before Bruce arrived last year, tore down the goalposts.

Said senior defensive tackle Robert Chirico, "Watching those goalposts come down was the most incredible thing I've ever seen at CSU. Back in the old days we were lucky to get out of the stadium alive."

SUCCINCTLY PUT: Frank Cooney of the San Francisco Examiner says Jerry Glanville, the Atlanta Falcons inimitable coach, said this to a rookie official at a recent NFL game: "Hey, do you know what NFL stands for? It's Not For Long if you keep making calls like that."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Vice President Dan Quayle, in a videotape shown at a recent roast for Indiana Coach Bobby Knight: "I'm only sorry I couldn't be there in person, but the Secret Service wouldn't allow it. I argued that I met with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, why not Bobby Knight? But their answer made a lot of sense to me. You can negotiate with the Sandinistas."