Men’s Basketball: Fearless Bryant McIntosh guides Wildcats into uncharted territory


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Bryant McIntosh scans the court. The junior guard helped lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Chris Collins didn’t mince words Tuesday ahead of the Big Ten tournament.

All-conference teams had just been announced, and Northwestern’s coach wasn’t happy his star junior point guard received second team honors.

“I thought (Bryant McIntosh) should have been on the first team, quite frankly,” Collins said.

Collins’ candid support of McIntosh comes as no surprise. Collins, himself a former point guard at Duke, got the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament promised land by building a team whose success hinges on No. 30’s play. It is hard to ignore the similarities between the Cats’ two leaders.

Collins faced his share of adversity during his playing days, dragging then-obscure Glenbrook North High School to basketball relevance and earning All-ACC honors in a comeback senior season with the Blue Devils. McIntosh, similarly, had to grapple with NU’s ignominy as a recruit and has slogged through two losing seasons to get to this point.

“It’s not a period I like to look back on,” McIntosh said. “But seeing how far this program has come is something that I can take a lot of pride in.”

He’s right to be proud considering the blows that stood to derail NU’s season. Sophomore forward Aaron Falzon, a key contributor a year ago, didn’t even suit up for a game. Sophomore center Dererk Pardon sat out eight contests and junior guard Scottie Lindsey missed four.

Through it all McIntosh was always there, playing more minutes and taking more shots than anybody else on the team while breaking a program record for assists along the way.

“You have injury, you have illness, that’s part of going through a long season,” McIntosh said. “Especially in the Big Ten, it’s an absolute grind. I just try not to put too much pressure on myself and try to help my team find a way to win.”

Such an unflappable level of cool is probably McIntosh’s calling card, even more so than the slick passing, timely 3-point shots and wispy floaters that have come to define his game.

And like his tremendous talent, that degree of confidence is also something that’s been carefully nurtured by Collins.

“We’re much older, we’re much more experienced,” McIntosh said when asked what makes this year’s squad special. “Now we’ve found ways to win close games. … That doesn’t mean we win every close game, but we at least feel like we should win it.”

That attitude was on display Friday during a surprising upset win over No. 25 Maryland. Down 10 in the second half, McIntosh hit a corner 3 to spark a 20-2 run that ultimately pushed NU to victory.

And if there’s another big shot to be taken this season, it’s a safe bet the ball will be in McIntosh’s hands.

“I’ve never been afraid of taking the game-winning shot,” McIntosh said. “I’ve made a lot in my life and I’m not afraid to lose; I’m not afraid to fail.”

One might expect the Cats to be a little more nervous heading into their first-ever NCAA tournament, but that simply isn’t the case. With McIntosh as his floor general, Collins has NU in a clear state of mind.

“You don’t get a lot of chances to play for championships,” Collins said. “If you can’t get excited about playing now, then you shouldn’t be playing.”

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