Naz Mitrou-Long’s Injury Shrinks Iowa State’s Big 12 Title Hopes

Posted by Kendall Kaut on December 16th, 2015

Iowa State announced yesterday that Naz Mitrou-Long will sit out the remainder of the season to recover from offseason hip surgery. His loss will put pressure on the Cyclones’ already tight rotation as they head into Big 12 play. Mitrou-Long, a senior starter averaging 12.0 points per game, is reportedly experiencing pain in both of his hips and will apply for a medical redshirt to play next season.

Iowa State will have to move on without Naz Long this season. (Getty)

Iowa State will have to move on without Naz Long this season. (Getty)

Losing a player of Mitrou-Long’s caliber is never easy. His 30 percent mark from three-point range in the eight games in which he played this season is a career-low (his average is 39.5 percent), so it’s reasonable to conclude that his hip ailment has played a significant role in this season’s dip. Iowa State’s already-short rotation will immediately feel the pressure of his absence as the competition only gets stiffer from here. The Cyclones have yet to play a true road game and are looking down the barrel of two tough upcoming matchups against Northern Iowa (in Des Moines) and a trip to Cincinnati right as they lose their sharpshooter. Long’s knowledge of his teammates’ tendencies, such as those of Georges Niang and Monte’ Morris, will be tough to replace as well.

While it will be challenging, the Cyclones harbor some hope for surviving the loss. Hallice Cooke, who stands to inherit the bulk of Mitrou-Long’s playing time, is shooting 44 percent from three and is a capable defender. Marquette transfer Deonte Burton is set to make his Iowa State debut this Saturday, and while he doesn’t pack the perimeter punch of Mitrou-Long or Cooke, his ability to get to the rim and finish should add a new and different dimension to Iowa State’s attack.

It’s also worth noting that if any Big 12 team can survive playing seven guys, Iowa State’s microscopic foul rate gives the Cyclones a realistic chance. Steve Prohm‘s defense sports the nation’s best defensive free throw rate, a development that has played a key role in the team’s climb to a top 25 defensive rating. If Iowa State can extend that habit into conference play and piece together some Long-esque contributions from the combination of Cooke, Burton and Matt Thomas, this team may be able to keep its Big 12 hopes alive despite the other heavy-hitters at the top. No team wants to lose a skilled veteran like Mitrou-Long, but if a couple things break their way with his replacements and staying on course, the Cyclones should be able to maintain hope for a run at the conference title.


Kendall Kaut (3 Posts)

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