Iowa Basketball has definitely seen better days. Last season's 15-17 record marked the first back-to-back losing seasons at Iowa since 1973-75.
Adding insult to injury, several players transferred at near-lightning speed in the off-season. Jake Kelly (Indiana State), Jeff Peterson (Arkansas), Jermain Davis (Minnesota State) and David Palmer (NKU) all decided to take their skills elsewhere.
As a result, Iowa enters this season as everyone's favorite catfish in Big Ten Basketball. Most experts, writers and bloggers have the Hawkeyes sitting at 10th or 11th in the Big Ten.
Iowa's coach Todd Lickliter knows what everyone's expectations are. Yet, at the recent basketball media day, Lickliter seemed surprisingly confident about the team's chances this year.
"You know, some of my favorite stories are ones where the ones that the non-favorites are the ones that came out on top," stated Lickliter at media day.
Part of his confidence might stem from a strong showing in a team trip over the summer to participate in basketball overseas. These types of trips help to form strong bonds among players, especially on a team that lost several players. The trip was a chance for the Hawkeyes to gain valuable playing time together.
Lickliter's confidence might also stem from an influx of young talent. Freshmen guards Cully Payne and Eric May, and forward Brennan Cougill enter the mix this year. Payne comes in as a highly touted and gifted point guard, and Cougill is the reigning “Mr. Basketball” in Iowa. The Hawkeyes also gain junior college forward Devon Archie.
Matt Gatens returns for Iowa, as well. Gatens, a sophomore guard, started all 32 games last year for the Hawkeyes. He shot 90 percent from the foul line to set an Iowa single-season record. Gatens will be a strong team leader this year, and his free throw ability will help keep Iowa in close games.
Anothy Tucker and Jarryd Cole should also be full strength to start the year. Cole came off an ACL injury as a freshman and didn't reach full strength until the end of last season last year. Tucker is a 3-point shooting specialist who missed much of the season due to mono, poor grades and charges of public intox.
Lickliter might also be smiling because 13 of Iowa's first 18 games are at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Playing at home, in front of the Hawks' Nest, does have its advantages.
So with all of the positives, why are the Hawkeyes predicted to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten?
One reason could be the youth of Iowa's team. Lickliter's team consists of four true freshman, one red-shirt freshman and four sophomores. Devon Bawinkel is Iowa's only senior.
In addition to the young team, they are also a guard-centric team. That means a shorter team. Glancing at the sidelines, it is clear Iowa lacks a true "big" man to battle in the paint.
Fans can form their own opinion by getting a first-hand glimpse of this year's basketball team when it holds an open scrimmage Saturday, Oct. 31 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
This scrimmage will come after two weeks of full practice, and should give everyone a chance to see what the team can do.
No one can claim to know what will happen with the Hawkeyes this year except Todd Lickliter. Maybe he knows something the rest of the country doesn't.
2009-2010 Iowa Hawkeye Men's Basketball Team
3 Cully Payne 6-1/190 FR G Schaumburg, IL (Schaumburg)
13 Nick Neari 6-2/185 FR G St. Charles, IL (North)
25 Eric May 6-5/220 FR G Dubuque, IA (Wahlert)
35 Devon Archie 6-9/215 JR F Indianapolis, IN (Vincennes CC)
44 Brennan Cougill 6-9/260 FR F/C Sioux City, IA (Bishop Heelan)
1 Anthony Tucker 6-4/200 SO G Minnetonka, MN (Minnetonka HS)
5 Matt Gatens 6-5/215 SO G Iowa City, IA (Iowa City HS)
15 Devan Bawinkel 6-5/210 SR G Winnebago, IL (Highland, IL CC)
20 Andrew Brommer 6-9/235 SO F Rosemount, MN (Rosemount HS)
24 Aaron Fuller 6-6/210 SO F Mesa, AZ (Mesa HS)
34 John Lickliter 5-11/175 RS FR G Iowa City, IA (Iowa City HS)
50 Jarryd Cole 6-7/250 JR F Kansas City, MO (Winnetonka HS)