As Bryant McIntosh walked off the floor at Vivant Smart Home Arena, tears rolled down his face. He knew what he — and Northwestern basketball — had accomplished, but he also knew everything had suddenly come to an end.
From the season opener against Mississippi Valley State to that moment in Salt Lake City, Utah, a lot had happened. Gut-wrenching defeats, improbable victories and “The Year” had all happened.
At the center of that, was McIntosh. Through injuries to Dererk Pardon and Scottie Lindsey, through shooting struggles of Vic Law Jr., and through slumps of his own, Bryant McIntosh kept coming. He kept shooting, he kept running the Northwestern offense and kept leading. The result was Northwestern’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The following numbers are taken from kenpom.com.
In most areas, Bryant McIntosh’s stats regressed from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017. The Junior’s per game assist numbers went down from 6.7 to 5.2, his rebounds decreased from 3.6 to 2.8, his field goal percentage dropped from 42.3 percent to 40.4 percent and his three-point percentage dropped from 36.6 to 30.7. He did increase his scoring to 14.8 points per game (from 13.8 in 2015-2016), but it took him 1.8 more shots to do so. His free throw percentage improved from 82.4 to 87.
But, McIntosh’s numbers didn’t dip in conference play as they did in 2015; his effective field goal percentage (44.6 to 45.1), three-point percentage (30.7 to 30.9) and offensive rating (100.7 to 103.4) all improved in conference play. The improvements themselves were marginal, but they came against stiffer competition in the Big Ten.
Stats via hoop-math.com.
|Name||FGA||TS%||eFG%||% shots at rim||FG% at rim||% assisted at rim||% shots 2pt J||FG% 2pt Jumpers||% assisted 2pt J||% of shots 3pt||3FG%||% assisted 3s||FTA/FGA||FT%|
McIntosh does most of his work in the midrange, where he routinely goes to his floater. Threes compose just 27.8 of his shots, which is the lowest of any backcourt player on the team. He relies on the three-point shot less than most of his backcourt teammates do (threes account for 27.8 percent of his shots), and he shoots 51.6 percent at the rim, which — other than Nathan Taphorn — is the lowest percentage of the team’s major contributors.
The offense began and ended with him, and he shouldered the scoring load to stretches when Scottie Lindsey was out or when Vic Law Jr. was struggling. He delivered several clutch performances throughout the season, including a 25 point, seven rebound and seven assist masterpiece in Northwestern’s huge win in Madison. He was a consensus second team All-Big Ten guard, and is clearly a go-to guy for Chris Collins’s team when it needs a score or a play. His shooting improved as the year went on, and he closed the year with a bang, scoring a combined 45 points in Northwestern’s two NCAA Tournament games. His leadership and playmaking ability were impeccable during the late stages of the season, and he carried the team offensively for long stretches during the year.
What is puzzling about McIntosh is that with a better supporting cast in 2016-2017, McIntosh’s shooting percentages fell. He struggled shooting the ball early in the year, and it hurt Northwestern some key games; his 3-of-18 and 3-of-14 performances in losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State are prime examples. He also uncharacteristically turned the ball over early in the year, especially against full-court pressure — his eight turnovers against Dayton almost cost the Wildcats the game. And though he generally runs the offense efficiently, there were so many times when Northwestern went through long scoring droughts and stagnant period. Those periods aren’t all on B-Mac, but as the team’s point guard, he has to shoulder some of the blame.
The most important thing with McIntosh is his shot. When it’s falling, Northwestern’s offense is usually clicking. When it’s not, Northwestern’s offense often goes through long stretches of games without hitting a field goal. Improving his three-point accuracy would be a huge development for the offense, especially given how much the ball is in his hands. Working on strength and explosiveness would also help McIntosh — if he can get all the way to the rim, rather than stopping short and taking difficult floaters, his efficiency will likely go up. Getting stronger would also help him improve on the defensive end, an area he already improved in in 2016-2017.
The Bottom Line
Bryant McIntosh is one of the Big Ten’s best guards. Tasked with playing upward of 35 minutes nearly every night, B-Mac has to shoulder an huge load on the offensive end, and, for the most part, he does it well. There are certainly areas where he can improve his game, notably on the defensive end, but he’s a fairly complete player. He makes his teammates better, and he’s not afraid to take the big shot at the end of a game. Though his numbers weren’t as good this season as they were the previous year, his play didn’t fall off as the schedule toughened, and he carried the team through those difficult times. Though all of the ups and downs of the season, McIntosh — though he had his own peaks and valleys — was largely a steady presence for the Wildcats, eventually guiding his team to the Big Dance.