In November, Bryant McIntosh was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50. Weeks earlier at Big Ten media day, the senior point guard had spoken of Northwestern’s ultimate goal of making the Final Four.
You know all this, but I remind you of it because the lofty and evidently unreasonable individual and team preseason expectations are the reason B-Mac’s senior season will go down as a disappointment. He had a few good stretches that brought back memories of the point guard’s magical junior season—- that showed what he is capable of doing when his knees and shoulders don’t betray him. When he was on the court and healthy, McIntosh’s patented pump-fake and floater were on full display. Unfortunately, he wasn’t completely healthy, and Northwestern’s offense suffered tremendously when McIntosh was compromised.
These stats are taken from KenPom.com
B-Mac’s three point shooting percentage is similar to last year’s, but his overall shooting percentage and minutes played are down significantly from last year’s numbers. McIntosh maintained an exemplary assist rate, but his efficiency in the paint took a hit. He attempted significantly fewer field goal attempts and played only 63.4% of minutes in Big Ten play. While he didn’t replicate his fantastic junior season, B-Mac was still the engine that made Northwestern’s offense go.
McIntosh seemed to be less comfortable attacking the rim, as the share of shots he took near the hoop fell from 19.3 percent in 2016-17 to 11.3 this season. He became heavily reliant on pull-up jumpers, floaters, and runners, and when those shots weren’t falling, the senior struggled to score. Northwestern will miss McIntosh’s ability to create his own shot— just 11.8 percent of his shots at the rim and 15.5% of his two-point jumpers were assisted.
Given last year’s success, B-Mac attracted double teams, forcing opposing defenses to hedge hard on almost every on-ball screen. The constant double teams came, and McIntosh stayed composed. He set a school record with 16 assists in a January win against a short-handed Minnesota team. He continued to get fouled and shoot his free throws efficiently; he was 83.9% from the charity stripe. More importantly, the defensive attention on him allowed center Derek Pardon to have a career year. The rising senior shot 61.9% from the floor while playing in 77.8% of minutes this season. Pardon’s progression was important, as he will arguably be Northwestern’s most important player next season.
McIntosh’s injuries put a serious dent in his senior season. His eFG% and TS% were career lows. He attempted 207 2-point field goal attempts, the fewest of his career, and shot 41.5% from the floor, also the lowest number of his career. And despite McIntosh’s inefficiency, Northwestern struggled mightily without its point guard, going 1-5 when B-Mac was out or limited. He also struggled defensively; consistently getting blown by against faster more athletic point guards.
Get healthy. McIntosh has been working out with Purdue’s Dakota Mathias and Butler’s Kelan Martin to prepare for an NBA opportunity. Northwestern’s beloved point guard won’t be drafted this coming June, but an NBA Summer League invite is likely. McIntosh needs to work on his 3-pointer and improve his lateral quickness in order to succeed in the world’s most competitive league. If he can provide solid defense and be a reliable three-point shooter, he’ll greatly increase his chances of finding a role in the NBA. If not, he’s likely to find a team that wants him overseas.
B-Mac showed flashes of brilliance against Creighton and Minnesota, but he wasn’t able to sustain it. Despite his disappointing senior season, B-Mac did something bigger during his Northwestern career. He created a basketball culture here at Northwestern. He can, and should, be credited for turning Northwestern into a destination for recruits like Pete Nance and Miller Kopp. The University put nearly half a billion dollars into its athletic facilities because it knows how unifying and exhilarating athletic success can be; it saw it first hand when McIntosh acted as the main cog in Northwestern’s magical run to the 2017 NCAA tournament. He is largely responsible for the program’s national relevance. He should feel proud when he comes back to Evanston in ten years to watch a pivotal Big Ten game in late February. He will have impacted everything he sees around him; the new Welsh-Ryan arena, the product on the court and the passion in the stands.