Player of the Week

Bryant McIntosh, G, Northwestern

Chris Collins has his point guard for the next three years.

McIntosh dazzled in Northwestern’s heartbreaking loss at Maryland, finishing with 21 points on 10-14 shooting with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. The freshman from New Castle, Indiana averages 33.3 minutes per game. He has a knack for finding his role in each game as either a facilitator (8 assists against Michigan) or as a scorer (the Maryland game). While he’s 6th in the Big Ten in assists per game (4.5), he has committed the fifth-most turnovers of any player in the conference. Still, the growth McIntosh has shown during conference play deserves praise.

Most individuals know that Dave Sobolewski’s playing style does not fit Collins’ system, so that puts even more pressure on McIntosh to be the primary, and sometimes only, ball handler for Northwestern. There isn’t any aspect of McIntosh’s game that is flashy, including his looks and demeanor. What is beautiful is the way he plays basketball. He’s an above average athlete and ball handler.

But he has two attributes that are by far his biggest assets. First, if the opponent is in a disadvantageous position – a bad angle playing defense against McIntosh, an improper rotation, or a lazy post-entry pass – McIntosh always takes advantage and makes you pay. Second, his ability to continuously have composure while understanding time and situation in a game is remarkable. He is an extension of Chris Collins on the basketball floor. Programs like Northwestern need that to create sustainability and build towards improvement.

Who’s Hot

Jae'Sean Tate, F, Ohio State

In my post two or three weeks ago, I discussed how important Marc Loving was to Ohio State playing so much zone defense.  Jae’Sean Tate is also becoming valuable in the Buckeyes’ zone defense tactics, but he also has the strength and athleticism to allow Thad Matta to play more man.

I think the toughest defenses are those that are able to “flatten out” – when you can put at least four guys on the floor that are similar in height and size, and that size is sprinkled with athleticism, a team can wreak havoc playing man-to-man defense. While Tate still has room to develop on the defensive end, his size and athleticism means Matta can compile lineups with Tate (6’4”), Loving (6’7”), Russell at point guard (6’5”), Sam Thompson (6’7”) and Amir Williams (6’11”). That will be REALLY nice to have come NCAA tournament time.
Offensively, Tate has great leaping ability for his size. My favorite part about his game is its predictability. Teams know that he wants to go to his left, but Tate does such a good job using his body and lowering his right shoulder that it becomes tough to defend him within 12 feet. His minutes have jumped admirably in the last two weeks; he’s averaging a shade under 30 minutes per game in the Buckeyes’ last three conference games. A 35-minute night where he finished with 20 points (9-10 from the field) and 6 rebounds in Ohio State’s win over Indiana puts Tate in this week’s Who’s Hot list.

Rapheal Davis, G, Purdue

It’s been a tremendous progression for the junior out of La Lumiere. There’s a constant theme when it comes to successful, sustainable guard play in the Big Ten conference – those guys that have the body that can take a beating night after night. Davis is 6’5”, 217 pounds. Aside from basketball, he’s a well-built individual. In regards to basketball, the man is a menace who knows how to use his body well.

Purdue has lacked the ability to score in previous games this year. Finding a player that can relieve pressure and convert easy points is essential. This year, Davis is 9th in the Big Ten in free throw attempts. I LOVE THAT. He knows that he must use his best asset (his physical size as a guard) to produce the most value (getting hit going to the rim and converting from the line). So far this year, there’s been no sign of slowing down. At the beginning of the year, Davis was averaging about 18 minutes per game. In conference play, he’s already logged four games of playing more than 36 minutes. That’s a reliable workhorse and something Matt Painter desperately needed.

Davis is shooting a shade under 50% from the floor. His assists have also increased, but on average his turnovers have as well. But Davis is leading the aggressive man-to-man defense for the Boilers, doubling his steals per game compared to last year.

Who’s Not

Walter Pitchford, F, Nebraska

Hello? Anybody home? Pitchford has made like a tree and left for substantial parts of this season.

So far this year, Pitchford is taking about the same shot attempts as last year, but shooting almost 10% worse from the field. Currently, he’s shooting 38% from the field on the year. Ick. I would say that Pitchford just needs to get back on track, but he hasn’t been on the track since the start of the year. In the first seven games of this season, Pitchford played at least 17 minutes in each game and scored less than 5 points in five of those contests. He’s committed 12 more turnovers this year than last year, and that’s through twelve less games as compared to last year.

Things aren’t adding up for me with Pitchford. He’s third on the team at 27.7 minutes per game. The Cornhuskers can throw out a slew of 6’7” guys, but the only other legitimate big man besides Pitchford, in terms of sheer size, is Moses Abraham who is averaging just 12.2 minutes per game. He’s turning the ball over at an excessive rate based on the amount of touches he gets per game. While he’s been adequate on the boards, it’s stagnated compared to last year. How long until Tim Miles decides he can no longer ride with Pitchford?

Top 5 Scoring Defenses in the Country (national rank in parentheses)

1.    Wisconsin 55.1  opponent’s points per game (7th)
2.    Michigan 61.1 (55th)
3.    Nebraska 61.3 (61st)
4.    Ohio St. 61.5 (69th)
5.    Michigan St. 62.1 (76th)