The 2016-2017 season is a crucial one for the Northwestern Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins. Collins enters his fourth year, and the general consensus is that his program has to show significant signs of progress in order to reach the ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament by the target year of 2018, when his first recruiting class will all be seniors. Collins has high expectations of a talented bunch of players, and they’ll need to show his expectations are not unfounded. With that, we run through every player on the roster this season. The first is the man who runs the show: point guard Bryant McIntosh.
Who he is:
Junior | Point Guard | 6-foot-3 | 185 pounds | Greensburg, Ind.
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Via Shot Analytics
McIntosh’s shot chart shows that he’s an average shooter who can be above average in the midrange but still struggles near the basket. His 54 percent mark at the tin is way below average, and the hope is that his continued physical development will aid him in this area. He was a streaky shooter from three and especially beyond the arc. He must be more consistent from that area to be a real scoring threat off the pick-and-roll.
McIntosh is a heady player, wise beyond his years, who continues to develop into one of the top playmakers in the nation with the ball in his hands. He has outstanding vision and court awareness, and when he’s hitting from deep, he can be very, very good (see his Wisconsin game last year). McIntosh is a true point guard: He set the single-season assist record last year, earning a classy "B-Mac for the Dime" campaign from the athletic department.
McIntosh is an outstanding passer and ball-handler. He keeps his turnovers relatively low, especially considering how often he has the ball, and his assist-to-turnover rate of 2.7 was ninth-best in the Big Ten. He’s also been a reliable and consistent performer, missing zero games in his career and playing over 35 minutes per game last year. He’s not a bad rebounder, either, and he can be a primary scorer when absolutely needed, though that’s not necessarily his greatest strength. He has good size for his position and shoots well from the stripe, although his free throw percentage dipped in conference play last season.
McIntosh isn’t an outstanding athlete, and that limits him on the defensive end. He sometimes struggles with either faster or stronger opposition, which is part of the reason Northwestern has had to play a matchup zone defense for the better part of the last two seasons. When he’s struggling with his outside shot, defenders can go under screens and pack it in, making it tough for him to drive and kick. Additionally, he still really struggles around the bucket, often settling for floaters rather than going up into the body of the defender.
Well, as the marketing campaign suggests, McIntosh is expected to have a big, big year. Any success Northwestern has will be contingent on that. He’s focused this offseason on becoming a better one-on-one player and scorer. As a captain, he’ll be looked to as a leader on the court and in the locker room. McIntosh should be able to continue his progression as a scorer and increase his points per game by a few ticks while playing almost the entire game. If the guys around him can hit shots, he’ll likely re-break his own program single-season assist record, which he set last year.