John Toner, athletic director at the University of Connecticut and former president of the NCAA, says there's no mystery why the six-year-old Big East Conference is doing so well.

"We knew if we got off the ground, with the location of our schools, we could keep most of the boys home," he said today. "The majority of basketball talent is raised in the East, but they were going away to school. They'd been winning for everybody else. That's the key."

The five senior starters in Monday night's NCAA championship game between Georgetown and Villanova were high school juniors when the Big East started. All 10 starters come from the Big East area.

The Big East also has developed somewhat friendly rivalries, unlike those in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Al McGuire, an NBC commentator, once said when he was coaching at Marquette: "The first sign of insanity is coaching in the ACC."

Georgetown Coach John Thompson says that Commissioner Dave Gavitt helps keep sanity among Big East coaches. Thompson says: "We have meetings and he says, 'Let's make certain we don't get a hostile atmosphere.' "

Of Rollie Massimino, his coaching opponent Monday night, Thompson says: "Rollie's like an old shoe. We've gotten in battles, but at the same time we've maintained some level of sense about it. There's been a certain sense of sanity of the league, and I hope it stays that way."