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Film Study: The B-Mac difference

It will be difficult for Northwestern to replace McIntosh.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Byrant McIntosh’s play-making abilities and incredible court vision led the Northwestern offense for the majority of his career as a Wildcat. However, McIntosh’s injury-ridden senior season gave us a glimpse into the uncertain future — what will the offense look like now that its usual catalyst has graduated?

There will be a lot of new players in the mix for the 2018-2019 season, particularly with the additional departures of graduates Scottie Lindsey and Gavin Skelly, as well as transfers Rapolas Ivanaukas and Isiah Brown. Each of these will be impactful losses, but McIntosh’s presence, or lack there of, seemed to be the most crucial and apparent difference in the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency last season. Here’s a look at last season’s offense with and without McIntosh.

With B-Mac:

McIntosh absolutely took over in Northwestern’s contest against Minnesota in early January. The senior guard had 11 points and, more remarkably, 16 assists to lead the Wildcats to an 83-60 win over the Golden Gophers.

Drives

McIntosh’s ball-handling skills were superb during his time as Wildcat. Rarely, if ever, was a defender capable of stripping the ball from his hands or stopping his dribble attacks in the paint. Whether he took it all the way to the hoop by himself or dished it out to the shooters waiting at the wings, the athletic guard’s control of the floor is exciting to watch.

McIntosh’s ability to create space and finish off-balance is remarkable. His quick shifts and speed changes often drew fouls, and for the 84.5 percent free throw shooter, those were important opportunities which he often capitalized on.

Although he only took 11.3 percent of his shots at the rim, his ability to finish inside the paint posed enough of a threat to force the defense to collapse on him, creating opportunities for his teammates.

But its not just about creating the movement. In this clip, McIntosh not only creates space for Vic Law to have a clear look at the basket, but also manages to give him a perfect pass while covered by three defenders. This allows Law to take very minimal time to set and shoot before the defender can close out on him.

Transition

Taking off in transition often leads teams to good looks, and McIntosh maintained his composure well and thought so far ahead that defenders had no idea he even noticed his teammates trailing him in these situations.

B-Mac took full advantage of this, drawing both defenders toward him on the one-on-two and tossing a behind-the-back practically no-look pass to Lindsey for the easy layup.

He found Lindsey again for an easy finish by reading the back-door cut before it even happened and giving him such a good leading pass that Lindsey doesn’t even have to break stride.

Assists

McIntosh’s ability to drive past defenders made defenses quick to pinch in on him, causing enough of a distraction to allow his teammates to make cuts toward the basket and get open. Here, B-Mac drags four defenders toward the paint and each one has their eyes and bodies focused on what he’s going to do, allowing Aaron Falzon to make an open back-door cut.

He split the defenders and dropped the pass perfectly into Falzon’s hands, allowing him to finish easily at the rim. McIntosh found Falzon again in a similar fashion — pulling all the defenders’ attention onto himself to allow Falzon an open shot in the corner. McIntosh maintained his composure despite the three defenders who closed in on him, and then threw Falzon a spot-on pass.

A whopping 94.4 percent of Falzon’s three pointers were assisted, and a substantial portion of that came from McIntosh. B-Mac continued to show that no amount of defenders could faze him, as he tossed an alley-oop to Dererk Pardon over the heads of three Minnesota defenders, allowing Pardon to throw down an explosive dunk.

Pardon took 71.0 percent of his shots at the rim, and 61.3% of those were assisted, largely due to plays like this and McIntosh’s court vision.

Without B-Mac:

The point guard did more than create plays, he exhibited calmness and composure in crucial situations. However, due to his injuries, Northwestern’s offense was left without him for stretches of the season and often looked discombobulated and uncertain.

Nebraska

In McIntosh’s first game out after his knee injury, Northwestern fell to Nebraska 70-55. Lindsey and Law combined for just 6-of-25 from the field, likely a result of the lack of B-Mac’s assists and play-making.

Brown made some quick moves to try to get past his defender but wasn’t able to create space like McIntosh and subsequently got blocked by Nebraska’s Isaiah Roby. Anthony Gaines ended up in a similar situation while McIntosh was taking a rest just a few minutes prior to his injury in the game against Brown.

There’s nothing wrong with Gaines’s trying to create a play and make something happen. However, the rest of the team looked disoriented and unsure of what to do without McIntosh on the floor. Northwestern looked stagnant, simply watching Gaines drive to the hoop. The spacing was a mess, with Barrett Benson and Gaines mere inches away and Skelly and Brown running into each other, and the defense didn’t have to stretch or keep their heads on a swivel, therefore making it extremely difficult for Gaines to finish at the rim.

Indiana

Although McItnosh played a bit in the Indiana game shortly after his injury, he was severely limited and Northwestern fell to the Hoosiers 66-46. McIntosh’s injury forced him to remain removed from the play, leaving the whole team hesitant, tentative and simply frozen, causing Lindsey to turn the ball over.

Falzon, Law and Pardon look stuck in their spots — there is no rhythm to the play. Sure, you could make the argument that it was simply one bad drive, but the offensive shakiness remained throughout the rest of the game.

McIntosh was left out of the play again, and without him the team’s movement was off, leaving Gaines to force up a shot. Without B-Mac in the play, the defense doesn’t have to spread or provide help on his drives meaning the movement is virtually non-existent and the paint is congested.

Conclusions

Bryant McIntosh had the keys to the Northwestern car for four years. It’s been a while since Chris Collins has truly had to build an offense around another point guard, and, at this stage, it’s unclear who that next point guard will be, though it should be Jordan Lathon in the intermediate-to-long-term future. Because B-Mac had the ball so much, the offense faltered without him, and there were really no other competent ball-handlers and playmakers on the roster when real pressure hit. It will be interesting to see how the Northwestern offense is structured next season without McIntosh — and who is running that offense.