(1) Cavs earn moral victory (and a real one, too): Given that the top contenders -- the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, Lakers -- will eclipse any regular-season games they played against each other (however exciting they might have been) by meeting up decisively in the playoffs, it's a pretty good argument that the Cavs' win over the Heat in Cleveland last night was the most meaningful win -- by any team -- of the 2010-2011 NBA regular-season.
This was a season-maker for the Cavs: They weren't close to sniffing the playoffs. They were humiliated by LeBron, who throttled them in his first return to Cleveland back in December. All the Cavs had left was to salvage their pride with an unlikely win last night. There will be no more meaningful win for any fans in the NBA than Cavs fans got last night. It should offset everything else. It's rare when a single win can do that, but this has always been an exceptional situation.
(2) Fiesta Bowl scandal: I have absolutely no problem with the BCS stripping the Fiesta Bowl of its BCS status. In fact, I think it is the appropriate punishment -- this is the epitome of "lack of institutional control," far more egregious (and arrogant) than anything I've seen from a school that has been cited for violations.
And I'm positive that Jerry Jones will be thrilled to suggest to the BCS cabal that Cowboys Stadium is a perfect insta-replacement to host a BCS-level bowl representing the "Southwest." The BCS might even be able to get Jones to pay an entry fee to get his stadium into the mix, and it's exactly the kind of super-profile event that Jones wants to use his arena for.
(3) The "Frontline"/PBS special on money and March Madness: I'm conflicted about paying college athletes. On the one hand, I think there is a substantial level of compensation already given to the athlete; on the other hand, I think the NCAA has gone well past the boundary between giving athletes an opportunity and exploiting them, particularly as it relates to things like TV rights, merchandise sales and the perpetual license it demands athletes give them for things like video games.
I have yet to see a reasonable plan for paying athletes, and to suggest that every athlete get a few extra bucks every month as a stipend ignores that the best players are getting tens of thousands of dollars (or more) from boosters, runners and agents, anyway. It also ignores that no one will find "one-size-fits-all" payments satisfactory. It also ignores the implications for the non-revenue sports, including women's sports. And, in the end, we're not really talking about paying college athletes -- we're talking about paying the biggest stars in college football and basketball, which is where it gets a bit more complicated.
The ideal solution is that any athlete with professional aspirations skip college and go into a formal pro development pipeline, directly. (The problem is that college football and basketball have become the informal pro development pipelines -- cheap for the pro leagues, revenue-generating for colleges -- and there are no incentives to do what's actually best for the players, which is to direct the ones with pro potential to a system that helps them maximize that potential, which the college system most certainly does not.)
But it's worth noting that any high school senior basketball player who wants to get paid for their one-and-done year -- as well as get actual pro coaching expressly mandated to get you ready for the NBA -- should go straight to the D-League. They will earn approximately $30,000 a year (plus any money they can earn from shoe deals or endorsements) -- is the expectation that paying them for playing in college would yield more?
(4) Should Purdue's Matt Painter jump to Mizzou? It's more money, but it's not a better job -- particularly if he has emotional ties to Purdue. Then again, he was willing to talk to Mizzou, so how devoted to Purdue could he be? If he doesn't leave now, he'll leave eventually. Purdue fans need to consider that.
(5) Cricket World Cup: India vs. Pakistan. To put it in perspective, right now 10 times the number of people around the world are watching this cricket match than watched the Super Bowl last month. 10 TIMES.
MLB Opening Day is tomorrow. Tons of great preview stuff is being released today, and you can find the best of it at Quickish, either in the front-page stream or on the "MLB Preview" stream. More here tomorrow morning.