Iona’s Scott Machado has entered elite point guard territory

Looking for the best point guard in college basketball right now? Start in New York City, where Iona senior Scott Machado is churning out monster numbers for the nation’s highest-scoring offense.

Now before you throw things at me, it’s important to keep in mind that the role of a point guard is so diverse, and so utterly dependent on a team’s game plan, that it’s often hard to find the one guy who plays the position best among his peers. For a player like North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, the main objectives each night are to rack up assists, keep things moving and initiate the offense. In a word, he’s a “passer,” and that’s basically all Roy Williams wants/needs him to be. Scoring, rebounding and swiping opposing passes are all optional. So while Marshall clearly does an exceptional job in this role, it’s not surprising that he is second in the country in assists (10.8 apg). This is not exceedingly difficult to do when you’re almost always making the “last” pass of each possession.

With that said, there’s a perfectly good reason why a guy like Jordan Taylor doesn’t flirt with gaudy assist totals very often, and it isn’t because of Wisconsin’s over-scrutinized, plodding style of play. Taylor simply gets the ball where it needs to be, and on a team infused with Bo Ryan’s level-headed discipline, many times the ideal location for the rock is right in the senior point guard’s own hands. Taylor is so integral to Wisconsin’s attack that he can’t possibly be 100% focused on setting up teammates each trip, and that’s the difference here. So you’ll inevitably see nights with four, five, maybe six assists, making it appear as though he had a mediocre performance when you stack it against the double-digit assist total somebody else turned in.

The public debate for “No. 1 point guard” between Taylor and Marshall is interesting because it eventually reveals what fans, analysts and writers truly think a point guard should accomplish on a nightly basis. And whereas touchdown passes in football and big assist totals in basketball might draw some parallels when it comes to a team’s success rate, over time it is inevitable that the focus will shift to the guys actually catching the passes and making those stats count. That isn’t to say Marshall is any less of a point guard because he doesn’t look for his own shot, but it’s much, much easier to excel in a specialized role than a wide-ranging one, and that needs to be taken into consideration.

All of this comes back to Machado and why his five-game stretch to start the season is more than enough evidence to suggest that he has entered elite territory as a floor general. The 6-foot-1 guard from Queens, NY, is quite honestly the ideal compromise in the Taylor vs. Marshall debate. He’s a pass-first, 20-point-scoring, glass-crashing, long-range specialist who steals passes as well as anyone in the country. And he does all that on the No. 1 offense in the sport. If you crave numbers, then Machado has you covered. Because unless you have Magic Johnson stashed away somewhere, good luck finding a player that can replicate 18.6 points, 12.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per night.

As crazy as it sounds, Machado’s numbers might actually undervalue his worth to the Gaels. The amount of easy baskets he creates in transition borders on insanity. Here’s a handy breakdown of where his assists have come from this year:

Seeing that 62.3% of Machado’s assists have resulted in dunks or layups is quite amazing. This kid is legitimately making his teammates better by gift-wrapping the easiest shot attempts available. The lack of made jumpers also indicates that teammates aren’t bailing him out with tough shots, meaning his gaudy assist average could theoretically be even higher. Whoa.

Playing alongside a 21.2 ppg scorer like forward Michael Glover, it’s perfectly logical to assume that Machado has been padding his stats by getting the ball to Iona’s big man down low. But that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Although 16 of his 61 assists this year have gone to Glover, Machado is still only assisting on 35.5% of Glover’s field goals, and every single one of those was a dunk or layup. The explanation here is that a scorer like Glover is going to get his, but Machado is simply making things about 50 times easier.

On their point guard’s watch, the ball has been spread around surprisingly well for the Gaels this season. Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of who Machado’s assists are going to:

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The fluctuation among secondary scorers is most telling. Machado has moved the ball around so much that seven players have already posted games where they had at least 20% of his assist total, and yet only twice (Glover x 2) has a teammate grabbed 40% or more. For once the term “getting everyone involved” doesn’t feel like a forced cliche. It truly applies here.

Taylor and Marshall supporters probably don’t want to acknowledge Machado’s growing presence on the national scene, but pretty soon they won’t have a choice. There’s a new star point guard in town, and until he cools off, he’s going to continue running laps around his peers statistically.