The 1985-86 women's college basketball season begins tonight for George Mason, George Washington, Howard and Georgetown, as the four area schools compete in the inaugural George Washington/Washington Times tournament at GW's Smith Center.

It will be the first women's tournament since 1981 involving only Washington-area teams. Howard will play Georgetown at 6 p.m., and George Washington will play George Mason at 8.

The Colonials appear to be the team to beat, with a productive offense directed by point guard Julie Brown. The return of sophomore Kas Allen will help GW's offense. She was redshirted last year because of a back injury but averaged 22.4 points her freshman year.

The Colonials are hoping Allen, along with all-time scoring leader Kelly Ballentine, can take the place of Cindy Baruch, who left GW after being one of the Colonials' top scorers last year.

In addition to Ballentine, Brown and Allen, George Washington Coach Denise Fiore said sophomore Gloria Murphy, junior Stacy Springfield and freshman Tracey Earley will see a lot of playing time.

George Mason will see how it fares without its three leading scorers from last year, all now graduated. Freshmen guards Wanda Williams and Dayna Scott, each of whom averaged more than 25 points a game in high school, are the newcomers to watch, although freshman Jeannine Jeminez has been the biggest surprise for Patriots Coach Jim Lewis.

"My biggest concern is GW's size, keeping them off the boards," said Lewis. "It will be a contrast in styles. We will try to make it a full-court game."

Georgetown is in a situation similar to George Mason's, having to rebuild its offense because two top scorers graduated. Sophomore Beth Knight (11.1 points, 6.3 rebounds), who made the Big East all-rookie team, will try to help replace the missing offense.

Rebounding should not be a problem for the Hoyas, who have the area's tallest player, 6-foot-7 Vanessa Lillingston-Price, and a promising freshman, 6-1 center Ann Granville.

Howard is hoping to begin where it left off last season, when the Bison won five of their last six games and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.

The Bison are a young team led by forward Courtney Bullard, who was third in scoring (14.5) in the area last season and is a good rebounder (10.6).

Vannessa Graham and Vikki Kennedy also averaged in double figures.