What’s Your Prediction?

...and you thought the Northwestern game hurt.

Iowa basketball newcomer and point guard Cully Payne started and scored three points, dished out six assists and an ample supply of grief to the Marian Knights in 29 minutes of exhibition supremacy this past week, or maybe yesterday...who really keeps track of basketball these days? Don't ask who or what Marian is, it will only confuse and sadden you. Focus instead on the bigger issues, such as: Is there life after Jake Kelly? Will Carver-Hawkeye ever be sold out for a basketball game again? And, why am I reading about basketball right now?

More after the jump....

After signing and then decommitting from Alabama, Illinois native Cully Payne was adrift looking for a place to land his unique talents. Soon enough he was being stalked by Todd Lickliter who was losing basketball players at a rate roughly equal to the speed of sound. Lickliter sold Payne by convincing him that Iowa was not far from his home, was without any competition at the point guard position, and is among the nations better basketball programs with vigorous fan support and a rich tradition of winning. Cully decided that two out of three ain't bad, and signed on the dotted line. And if the preseason, all one game of it, is any indication Cully has chosen wisely. He has found his mecca on the hardwood of Caver-Hawkeye. Not since Iowa signed Jeff Peterson, who like Payne was a promise breaker having initially signed and then decommitted from Princeton, has Hawkeye Nation been so apathetic unaware of the comings and goings of Hawkeye basketball players.

Payne is the latest cornerstone piece of Todd Lickliter's Iowa Hawkeye basketball program, which after two years has been graced with a number of foundational players around which he has tried to build (Tony Freeman, Jeff Peterson, Cyrus Tate, Jake Kelly). Lickliter may have finally found the guy though who can fill it up and dish it out, and all while doing a remarkable impression of Dan Bohall. But most importantly Lickliter has found someone ready to hunker down and stay for the duration (or at least two full seasons) at the point guard spot. That his name is Cully is just a bonus.

Todd Lickliter has proved the Butler Way is the way back for Iowa. Cully Payne, for one, could not be happier to be part of Lickliters second or third beginning at Iowa. When asked how he planned to use Payne for the upcoming season, Lickliter responded with his usual obtuseness by saying, "I expect to play Cully 40 minutes a game for the first few games, then I'll sit him inexplicably for a game or two and leave him and the media in the dark the rest of the season about his playing time. I find that players and the media respond best to certainty, so consider this a big heads-up." Other players who expect to be clueless about their role this season include, everyone but Matt Gatens---whose role is to be Matt Gatens for 40 minutes a night.

The Hawkeyes are picked by the media, and each of the returning players, to finish last in the Big Ten---which of course means eleventh. Lickliter sees this as progress though, "When I first came here Iowa was coming off a disastrous 17-14 season in which they did not make the NCAA or NIT tournament." When reminded that 17-14 is still a winning season Lickliter became visibly agitated and shot back, "go look at Butler for God sake. Look at Tennessee, Arkansas and Indiana State. I'm a program builder! I'm making a difference dammit." With players like Cully Payne the indifference is about to start.

Iowa opens it season on November 15 against Texas-San Antonio at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tickets are available. Big time.

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