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Northwestern basketball player previews: G Bryant McIntosh

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What’s in store for the senior’s final ride?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball season is just around the corner. To get ready for the No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats’ season, we will bring you in-depth player previews for every scholarship member of the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats. Our final preview is of senior point guard Bryant McIntosh.

Who he is:

Senior; Point guard; 6-foot-3, 200 pounds; Greensburg, Indiana

The stats:

34.2 minutes per game; 14.8 points; 5.2 assists; 2.8 rebounds; 0.7 steals; 2.7 turnovers; .404/.307/.870 shooting splits

2016-17 review:

McIntosh’s numbers last season took a slight hit from his sophomore year. His shooting percentage dropped, and so did his rebound and assist numbers. This comes with the territory of being the team’s primary ball handler late in the shot clock. Tre Demps saw his field goal percentage drop below 40-percent his senior year and McIntosh essentially filled the void left by Demps.

This slight decline in production is dramatized by McIntosh’s slow start to the season. The point guard scored single-digit points in five of Northwestern’s 13 non-conference games, but did so just four times in the 18-game Big Ten slate. Undeniably, McIntosh has the ability to impact games for better or worse. A five-turnover performance against Butler and 3-for-18 from the field against Notre Dame were too much for the Wildcats to overcome. On the other hand, McIntosh’s junior season came to be defined by his improvement in Northwestern’s biggest games. From sophomore to junior year, McIntosh was a more efficient scorer and distributed the basketball at nearly an identical assist rate in conference play and against Tier A and B opponents.

Although he did not feast on weak non-conference competition like he did as a sophomore, McIntosh’s junior campaign was successful despite a slight regression in his per-games statistics. The full story is McIntosh shouldered significantly more responsibility in Chris Collins’ offense and expectedly saw his total efficiency take a slight dip. He may not have lit up DePaul, Eastern Washington or Houston Baptist, but his finest moment was a 25/7/7 stat line in 40 minutes at the Kohl Center and his 45 points in two NCAA Tournament games.

Strengths:

We know what we’re going to get from Bryant McIntosh this season. The ever-consistent point guard is effectively going to determine the success of Northwestern’s offense. And I’m OK with that. A consensus second-team All-Big Ten honoree, McIntosh is among the best guards in the conference. He’s Collins’ go-to guy whenever this team needs a score. This dagger against a resilient Dayton team or the go-ahead three against Rutgers embody the player that McIntosh has become. His 19-point second half effort to secure a huge non-conference win over Wake Forest also showed his ability to take over offensively.

McIntosh is the leader of Northwestern’s offense and its best playmaker. His ability to create for himself cannot be understated. 53 percent of his shots last year were two-point jumpers with 19 percent coming at the rim and 28 percent coming from behind the arc. He loves his mid-range floater and shot above 41 percent on two-point jumpers. McIntosh has developed an uncanny ability to knife past defenders and create his own shot. Collins has grown comfortable letting his point guard handle the ball with the shot-clock winding down.

This seems minuscule but McIntosh got to the line 23 more times than he did his sophomore season. He also shot free throws at a higher clip.

Weaknesses:

I touched upon the tough non-conference performance last season. In addition to the aforementioned games, McIntosh also turned the ball over eight times against Dayton, and six times in a conference loss to Illinois. This is part of being a point-guard, but taking care of the ball and avoiding the occasional high-turnover game should be a priority for McIntosh in his senior season.

Expectations:

Expect the best season of McIntosh’s career. Anything less would be slightly disappointing, but with an abundance of talent at his disposal and playing with supreme confidence, there’s no reason the senior can’t put the finishing touches on what has been a masterful career. It’s unlikely that McIntosh has reached some untapped potential this offseason, but he should be able to improve his field goal percentage, especially his 30.7-percent clip from three. It’s been a pleasure watching the unlikely freshman with a buzzcut emerge as one of the best players in program history. Enjoy this season. Nobody has done more for Northwestern basketball than Bryant McIntosh.