Channel 20 rides to the rescue, college basketball buffs, to bring you VMI vs. Kentucky from College Park at 6 p.m. Thursday, then beam Wake Forest vs. Southern Illinois at 10:30 from the Midwest Regional at Oklahoma City. Sandwiching NBC's North Carolina-Notre Dame game on WRC-TV-4, the WDCA-TV-20 package means . . . tripleheader!

What, you prefer one-on-one with gloves on? Simply switch over to WMAL-TV-7 for 2 1/2 hours of boxing Thursday, 8:30-11 p.m. from San Juan. Leading off with Ronnie McGarvey, the over-30 southpaw who lives a stone's throw from the Maryland campus, getting his opportunity of a lifetime, challenging for Alfredo Escalera's WBC junior-lightweight crown; then George Foreman vs. Jimmy Young . . .

That's quite a weeknight sports bill.

And what's your favorite televised sport? The Professional Bowlers Association, which sent an advance team to the Touchdown Club yesterday to drum the $75,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open and Pro-Am coming up in Springfield April 4-9, says more of you watch bowling than pro basketball, college basketball, hockey, golf or tennis when given the choice.

Sixteen consecutive years on ABC bespeak the fact that bowling ratings are winners. Never know when the unthinkable will happen to one of the supposedly automatic pro aces. Last summer in Seattle, Paul Coldwell threw a gutter ball (!) to begin the 10th frame of the title match against Dav Davis, here yesterday to remember how Colwell recovered by spilling 20 pins on his next two rolls to tie, then beat the slim southpaw in a rolloff. That had to make a lot of folks tune in again next tournament.

And whet interest for catching the PBA act in person when 144 pros go for the bucks at Springfield after 540 amateurs and 180 youths try their hand in the pro-am. Davis and 71 others have exempt status, some 120-130 bowling counterparts of golf's "rabbits" must qualify for the other 72 spots. There already have been six-game rolloffs at area lanes for five special exemptions for Washington-Baltimore tenpinners to assure local rooting interest, and Northern Virginians Jim Robinette, Gene Maas and Alan Ladd won three of 'em . . .

And the king, Earl Anthony? Will he be here? Depends, we're told. His wife is facing surgery, making his status iffy . . .

The Jets-Mets-Shea Stadium mess is almost back where it started, with the NFL club edging closer to a jump to Jersey. The baseball team yesterday formally rejected a written agreement aimed at averting the threatened move.

In November. FanFare focused on the woes of several former Harlem Globetrotters. Worse came to worse, and Leon Hillard, onetime dribbling magician of basketball's comic goodwill ambassadors who later coached the Trotters, has been shot to death in Southside Chicago. Justifiable homicide, police ruled, on the part of his wife, Sandra, 38. Investigators found they had been in the process of separation or divorce; he kicked in the apartment door and was met by a .38-caliber bullet through his head. Leon Hillard was 45 and in recent years ran two hot dog stands . . . Gratien Tonna, former middleweight boxing champion of Europe, recently sentenced to jail for causing the death of a policeman by drunk driving, out on bail suffered gunshot wounds in the arm in a Paris brawl yesterday.

In the confusion league, nobody tops Muhammad Ali and the when, where and if of his next fight. From Rimini, Italy, an AP dispatch that the newly crowned champion of II Boot, Alfio Righetti, thinks he has a $100,000 offer to fight the heavyweight champ in Seoul, Korea, or the United States -- looking forward to it as a wedding present, said Righetti, a 24-year-old traffic cop being married Sunday.From New York, New York, UPI files an announcement by promoter Paul Corvino that Ali has been persuaded to defend in Seoul against another Italian, Lorenzo Zanon. Make that "Rocky" Lorenzo Zanon, puts in good old Rocky Graziano, the old middleweight champ who will train the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder with a purported 28-2 record and 22 KOs. "This here kid, he fights something like I do," said Graziano, puffing on a cigar. "He walks in and throws bombs, bombs, bombs. "Yes, they'll cue in on the movie "Rocky" and be calling Zanon the Italian Stallion. Another promoter in Los Angeles bragged last week that he had Ali committed for a "last" defense against the Foreman-Young winner this summer, someplace overseas and presumably after the Italian-connection tuneup, or whatever. Mama mia. . .