Iowa baseball must avoid letdown after winning Big Ten title, Christian Kirksey gets paid, and more
The best way to start your day is right here at Landof10.com as we prepare you for everything you need to know about Iowa sports. We’ll share our Iowa Breakfast Club here with you at 7 a.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
So let’s get to it. Here is the Iowa Breakfast Club for Wednesday, May 31.
Ensuring Iowa doesn’t settle with the Big Ten title
After finishing his media obligations on Monday, Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller planned on addressing his team. He wanted to make one thing perfectly clear as the Hawkeyes head to the NCAA Tournament.
“The thought now has to be to win,” Heller said.
It’s simple, obvious and straightforward, but something Heller must repeat it to his players. Making the postseason is a big accomplishment, but it’s not the end of the journey. There can be more, but it depends on the Hawkeyes’ mindset.
He knows from experience.
“I’ve been in this before where I felt so good about a team going into a regional,” Heller said. “I realize a lot of the guys didn’t see past the conference tournament and boom, we laid an egg.”
Heller, in his second trip to the regionals with Iowa, took Upper Iowa to the NCAA Division II Tournament three times, and took Indiana State and Northern Iowa to the Division I tourney once.
Teams that revel in past success find it harder to win championships in the future. It’s especially true with college baseball. A team goes from winning a conference tournament to having to immediately prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
There is little time to enjoy the title. The teams that see the regionals as an opportunity can be in a better position to advance. Heller is making sure the Hawkeyes know as much as they prepare to play host Houston on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU).
“If you are not all-in we aren’t going to have a chance,” Heller said. “We have to believe and continue to do what we do and then also get rested up because that’s a grind to play and win a tournament like we just did.”
Next drink is on Christian Kirksey
What do 143 tackles get you? A four-year, $38 million dollar contract extension. That’s the reported deal the Cleveland Browns made with former Iowa LB Christian Kirksey, the club announced Tuesday.
— Christian Kirksey (@Kirksey) May 31, 2017
Kirksey was one of the few bright spots for Cleveland last season. He finished third in the league in tackles and recorded 2.5 sacks. Kirksey led all NFL linebackers with 63 defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus.
Browns LB Christian Kirksey led the league's LBs with his 63 defensive stops last season, more than his previous two seasons combined. pic.twitter.com/J5zFnA8P7q
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 29, 2017
The extension was well earned. Now comes the hard part for Kirksey and the Browns — turning Cleveland into a winner.
It’s never too early to start thinking football
The Las Vegas South Point sportsbook recently released its first batch of college football point spreads, and a couple of early Iowa lines were worth a double-take.
Iowa opens the season as 12.5-point favorite at home against Wyoming and QB Josh Allen, the potential No. 1 overall NFL draft pick next year. The Cowboys also have coach Craig Bohl, the man who put the blueprint in place that North Dakota State uses to this day, i.e., the same one that resulted in a 23-21 NDSU upset of Iowa last season.
South Point also listed Wisconsin as a 17-point favorite in its Nov. 11 matchup with the Hawkeyes. That is a big spread for a rivalry game decided by 10 points or fewer in five of the last six meetings. Only one of the last 10 Heartland Trophy games was decided by more than 19 points. The spread is likely in double figures because Wisconsin will begin the season ranked in the Top 25 — a Sporting News composite offseason ranking puts the Badgers at No. 12 — while returning 14 starters.
Both numbers seem a little high and may come down in time. But remember the golden rule about Las Vegas sportsbooks: They tend to get it right more often than they get things wrong.