One Burning Question: Will Steve Prohm’s Big Bet Pay Off?

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2016

On the surface, the changes that Steve Prohm is asking Monte’ Morris to make this season seem rational. The Cyclones are coming off of a Sweet Sixteen appearance, but lost the Big 12’s fourth all-time scoring leader in Georges Niang and two other effective scorers in Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay. The thinking goes that someone has to pick up the slack, and who better to do so than a Preseason All-American and potential first round pick? Furthermore, recent history on both sides of the equation supports the notion that Prohm and Morris can pull this off. In 2014, Prohm’s offense turned Cameron Payne into a lottery pick at Murray State. The season before that, DeAndre Kane soaked up 27 percent of Iowa State’s possessions on the way to leading Iowa State to its first Sweet Sixteen in 14 years. So this should work too, right? I’m not so sure. In fact, there are a few reasons to be skeptical of how far Morris can carry this team, though admittedly, Prohm doesn’t have much choice.

Can Iowa State ride Monte' Morris back to the Big Dance? (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Can Iowa State ride Monte’ Morris back to the Big Dance? (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Perhaps the biggest difference between this Iowa State team and the last few versions is that opposing defenders will be locked in on Morris from the start. Matt Thomas and Naz Mitrou-Long are legitimate scoring threats who will divert some attention away from Morris, but defenses won’t be motivated to stay on them if they aren’t hitting their threes. Even if Thomas and Mitrou-Long pick up where they left off, though, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Morris — despite sporting an improved physique — will be able to successfully absorb the kind of volume the Cyclones hope to extract from him this season.

We only need to look a few hours south of Ames for a relevant example of the risks a point guard can face when asked to endure extremely high workloads. Kansas point guard Frank Mason played 83.1 percent of his team’s available minutes last season, but his end-of-year returns were spotty from a durability standpoint. Playing at just 185 pounds — 10 pounds heavier than Morris’ listed weight although a few inches shorter — Mason’s attacking style made him susceptible to a significant amount of contact that made it difficult for him to stay healthy in March. Over the last few weeks of the season, the wear and tear on his body and the corresponding decline in his performance were noticeable. He turned in some gutsy postseason performances, but his efficiency dropped considerably from his regular season norms. And while Mason’s struggles didn’t preclude Kansas from achieving its usual run of postseason success, the Jayhawks also boasted far more weapons than this Iowa State squad has available.

For Prohm’s plan to ultimately pay off, Morris’ supporting cast has to produce within a narrow margin for error. Thomas and Mitrou-Long must regularly space the floor with their shooting, but there’s more to it than just those two. According to Prohm himselfDeonte Burton  who has just one career double-double to his name — needs to average a double-double for the team to reach its goals. Transfers Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie will also have to pitch in on the glass, and the team’s top freshman, Cameron Lard, won’t be able to contribute until December. Steve Prohm is betting big on Morris. Given what the senior has already accomplished in his illustrious career, it’s easy to see why. But given the limitations of this year’s Cyclones, it’s just as easy to see why it could backfire.

Brian Goodman (945 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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