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Bryant McIntosh is Northwestern’s offense

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There’s a reason he plays so many minutes.

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

Bryant McIntosh’s numbers don’t jump off the page. Nearly all of his statistics this season, per 40 minutes, are in line with his career averages.

Individually, his season has been up-and-down. In his first four games, McIntosh averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 assists per game on 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent from deep. In the past five games, he’s averaged just 10.2 points and 5 assists per game on 32.8 percent and 27.3 percent shooting.

Despite his uneven start, McIntosh still plays a pivotal role in the Wildcats’ offense. Simply put, he is the team’s offense. He’s the straw that stirs the drink, creating shots for others through his pick-and-roll play, drives to the basket and ability to break down defenders one-on-one. When he hits the pine, Northwestern’s offense crumbles.

In the 328 minutes McIntosh has played, the Wildcats have outscored opponents by 39 points, shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from deep. The team has assisted on 56.1 percent of its field goals and sports a 1.23 assist-to-turnover ratio, while opponents have more turnovers than assists.

In the 37 minutes he’s sat, opponents have outscored Northwestern by 29 points, shooting 60.5 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep. Without their floor general, the Wildcats have proved incapable of running a Division I-caliber offense, shooting 28.9 percent from the field and 15.8 percent from deep.

Hold tight, I’m going to go throw up.

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Thanks for waiting. What I just produced in the toilet is on par with what the team has generated offensively when McIntosh is off the floor. As vanilla as Northwestern’s offense appears — drink every time the team starts a possession with two consecutive dribble hand-offs that go nowhere, and you’ll find yourself in a hospital by the game’s end — it’s effective when McIntosh is out there.

Ask McIntosh and he’ll tell you that the late-game offensive execution, or lack thereof, against Illinois and Purdue was his fault. That’s partially true; he committed three turnovers against the Fighting Illini in the final three minutes of regulation and threw the ball away in the last minute against the Boilermakers.

He’s also played in nearly 90 percent of the Wildcats’ minutes this season and is responsible for bringing the ball up basically every single time. If anyone is worthy of a pass on offense, it’s McIntosh. That’s why Northwestern can live with mistakes like those. As the numbers have shown, his presence on offense is a significant positive.

Isiah Brown looms as a potential stopgap. Head coach Chris Collins said that Brown was dealing with an injury during preseason, limiting his play on the court. In the past couple games, Brown has played well off the bench, hitting a huge shot during overtime against Illinois and scoring nine points against Purdue. If he’s healthy and can continue to give the Wildcats a spark, McIntosh’s rest won’t be as costly.

As things currently stand, McIntosh and Northwestern’s offensive competence are joined at the hip. While he may have stinkers, as he did against Purdue, McIntosh is still the Wildcats’ most reliable and consistent source of offense.