With the NCAA dumping cold water (not, alas, Gatorade) on St. Louis' hopes of hosting the Final Four, local hoopheads will make do with the Missouri Valley Conference Men's Basketball Tournament. And it's not a bad consolation prize at all. Perennial powerhouse Creighton and rising contender Illinois State are the favorites, especially with defending champs Drake having an off year. Sorry, Saluki fans: the struggling SIU-Carbondale squad has as much chance of winning this thing as St. Louis does of landing another Final Four. Games start at 6:05 p.m. Thursday and continue on Friday and Saturday, with the final at 1:05 p.m. Sunday (March 5 through 8) at Scottrade Center (1401 Clark Avenue; 314-241-1888 or www.scottradecenter.com). Tickets are $30 per session (two games per session, except for the final) or $110 for all nine games. For more information, see www.archmadness.com.