This must be Georgetown University's first $1 million basketball season.

Add up the educated guesses: $210,000 for four national television games, $120,000 from seven McDonough Arena dates, a minimum of $125,000 in the NCAA tournament and $575,000 from 12 Capital Centre games. That's $1,030,000.

"A million-dollar year?" someone said to Frank Rienzo, the Georgetown athletic director.

Rienzo blushed. "I'm not saying," the smiling boss said. "Let's say that with playing at Cap Centre (for the first time) came certain financial advantages . . . Knowing this was the beginning, not the end, averaging 9,700 there was a stunning success."

It's the beginning, too, of the Big East Conference, 3 years old but already a national force because of Georgetown's sudden rise to blushing millionaire status.

Sometime soon, the Big East will move onto a plateau with the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Southeastern conferences. Any argument over the nation's best league will include the Big East, which, immodestly and properly, calls itself The Rising Star Conference.

The ACC was 70-17 against nonconference Division I opponents this season. That's an .805 percentage. The Big East ranked second at 60-21, .744, followed by the Southwest (.667), Big Eight (.662), Southeastern (.646) and, in 10th place, the Big Ten (.553).

Boston College's 94-92 victory over Syracuse yesterday in the Big East tournament was the breathless thriller the ACC used to play. Villanova guard Stewart Granger could have won 20 for Maryland. St. John's left-handed freshman, Chris Mullin, conjures the Billy Cunningham days at Carolina.

Patrick Ewing, Anthony Jones and Bill Martin are Georgetown freshmen with national championship potential.

The Big East tournament moves the next three years to Madison Square Garden, with the league guaranteed $1 million a crack.

"If the past three years indicate anything," Rienzo said, "the next three years should be fantastic. Going to the Garden was an answer to the question, 'What's the biggest city for the best conference?' "

The ACC's one-two teams, North Carolina and Virginia, are better than Georgetown and Villanova. Going 3-6, Boston College, Syracuse, St. John's and Connecticut would win three of four against Wake Forest, N.C. State, Maryland and Clemson. At bottom, Duke and Georgia Tech are stronger than Seton Hall and Providence.

Geography makes the Big East and ACC neighbors, yet they are as different as the Garden and Cameron Indoor Stadium.

They play differently. The Big East will run. The 94-92 game was the seventh time this season that a losing team scored more than 80 points. Everyone yawned this last month as Virginia, then ranked No. 1, walked the ball up court every night.

With Ralph Sampson, Virginia walked.

That's like driving a Porsche with the emergency brake on.

The ACC has come down with a severe case of inadequacy. Early on, Virginia boasted of its all-court running. Once the going turned serious, Virginia sought out the safe house of Slowball.

Virginia should never have allowed a mediocre team (Maryland) to hold the ball four minutes for one shot to win. By doing nothing but watch the mediocrity roll the dice on a one-shot gamble, Virginia lost to its own insecurities.

Bold teams make things happen. Caught on an off-night, Georgetown fell 10 points behind Providence early. When Providence went to Slowball, Georgetown's pressure broke the Friars. Then Georgetown's spread offense produced 14 baskets in 16 shots.

These personality differences are acquired. ACC teams, over three decades of civil war, have developed a fear and loathing of each other. The Big East's brash young enemies have no memory bank of past shaftings with which to stoke the engines of mutual assured destruction.

So while old ACC warriors circle cautiously, letting Ralph Sampson walk instead of fly, the new Big East bullies go one-on-one at full speed.

You may wonder how the Big East did against the ACC this season.

They didn't. These 16 teams sharing geography and ambition did not play a game against each other.

Someone said to Frank Rienzo, "Is the ACC ducking the Big East, or has the Big East decided it doesn't want to risk playing the ACC, or what?"

Rienzo's smiling nonanswer was an oration on how difficult it is to make a schedule in these TV times.

"But if you wanted to play North Carolina, and TV wanted it, couldn't you work it out?" someone said.

In smiling nonanswer, Rienzo said Georgetown may play at De Paul on TV next season.