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The Outsized Impact of Ty Berry

What will the Northwestern offense look like if Berry misses extended time?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 31 Northwestern at Purdue Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For all the laurels placed on the head of Boo Buie, Ty Berry has arguably been the x-factor for Northwestern. The Wildcat’s fortunes on offense often go as Ty goes. When Ty is hot, Northwestern is hot — and, oh boy, has Ty been on fire.

Berry is shooting a ridiculous 43.3% from downtown this season, capped by a 48% clip in January. That January mark was good for the third best in college basketball for players who shot more than 50 threes. If you look at the advanced metrics, Berry’s impact becomes even more apparent. During his red-hot January, Northwestern ranked SECOND in the COUNTRY in adjusted offensive efficiency, behind only Zach Edey and Purdue. Berry’s own offensive rating was higher than the likes of RJ Davis, Caleb Love and even Boo Buie. Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht, who has a chance to be the first college basketball player selected in the 2024 NBA draft, was the only player with a higher offensive rating than Berry in January, and Knecht shoots threes at a similar clip.

So when Ty Berry exited Wednesday’s contest against Nebraska, walking gingerly on his right knee, the future of Northwestern's offense got a little more murky. Berry did not return from the locker room, and now that he has been ruled out against Penn State, and seen on crutches, there is rightful cause for concern.

The especially frustrating part of the injury is that Northwestern’s offense looked downright elite in Berry’s minutes against Nebraska. In the two-minute sequence before Berry got hurt, Northwestern went on a flurry of a 12-2 run, with Berry contributing on eight of the ‘Cats’ 12 points.

Those two minutes were a microcosm of No. 3’s offensive impact. After a filthy finger roll, and-one layup from Ryan Langborg, Berry hit a deep, quick-fire three off a Luke Hunger screen. On the next possession, he drew a double team on the baseline before finding Langborg for three. Then, he capped the run off with another three of his own after losing Jamarques Lawrence with some nifty off-ball movement.

Berry’s impact offensively lies as much in his playmaking as it does in his shotmaking. Of course, Berry’s jumper is elite, but when looking at Northwestern’s numbers with him off the court, the assist metrics stand out.

Northwestern boasts the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country when Berry is on the court at 1.96. When Berry is on the bench, that number falls all the way to 1.41, good for 46th. That discrepancy is in the 98th percentile for all of college basketball, according to cbbanalytics.com.

The thing is that Berry doesn’t rack up assists at an even remotely impressive rate. His 1.4 assists per game rank last among Northwestern starters; however, what it comes down to is spacing. Teams are forced to respect Berry’s jumper, which manifests itself in increased off-ball pressure on Berry around the perimeter, hedging on screens, and therefore more wide-open passing lines.

Of course, the on/off shooting data is impressive as well. Northwestern shoots 8% worse from deep when Berry is off the court, down from 41.6% when Berry is on. Buie, Langborg, and Barnhizer have all been lights out from downtown as of late, but much of their success can be attributed to defenses shifting their focus to pressing one of the best shooters in college basketball.

As long as Boo Buie is manning the ship, Northwestern's offense will continue to play at a high level, but Berry’s value to this team cannot be understated. Assuming Berry is out for the foreseeable future, Sunday’s contest against Penn State should prove as a good barometer for how the ‘Cats will fare without No. 3.