Right Decision for Charles Matthews

Charles Matthews decided to return to school for his redshirt junior season at the University of Michigan on Wednesday. This, in my opinion, was the best choice he could’ve made for himself.

Don’t get me wrong, Matthews had a solid season with the Wolverines in 2017-18. But I don’t think he was ready to make the jump to the pros. Neither did the NBA or pro scouts as he wasn’t invited to the NBA Combine held a couple of weeks ago. He was projected to go undrafted in most mock drafts and was a late second round choice, at best, in some mocks.

First off, I think it was a wise choice for Matthews to return because he needs more seasoning along with more than just one solid season of college hoops to solidify himself as an NBA draft prospect.

Matthews started off his college career as a highly touted recruit out of Chicago as a lengthy, athletic swing-man. He chose the Kentucky Wildcats as his first team and averaged 1.7 points per game in just over 10 minutes a game as a freshman for John Calipari’s squad. After his first year, he decided to transfer to U of M and sat out the 2016-2017 season.

In his first season for John Beilein and the Wolverines, Matthews showed why he was the 42nd best recruit by ESPN in the class of 2015. He averaged 13 PPG, 5.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and shot 49.5% from the field in 2017-18. He was second on the team in points and rebounds behind Moe Wagner (who could be a late first round, early second round draft selection in this years draft) and second in minutes played behind Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

He also was crucial to Michigan’s run to the championship game in the NCAA tournament. He bested some season averages in the tourney by averaging 14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG and shooting over 50% from the field.

But for all the positives Matthews had, there was a negative to accompany it.

His shooting (although he had a solid field goal percentage) was horrendous. He shot 31.8% from behind the 3-point line in the regular season and 55.8% from the free throw line. Those percentages actually got worse during the NCAA tournament as he shot 21% (4-19) from behind the line and 54.2% (13-24) from the charity stripe. Those are numbers that would not bode well in today’s NBA for a 6’6 shooting guard/small forward.

He is also not the best passer or decision maker out there and doesn’t have the best court vision. He only averaged 2.4 APG during the regular season and had only 7 assists in 6 games in the tournament. Another year of college basketball could allow him to hone this skill before he goes pro.

While most top end players are “one and dones” in today’s world of college basketball, that was just not in the cards for Matthews. After barely playing for Calipari as a freshman at Kentucky, he transferred to Ann Arbor to get more playing time and hone/improve his skills, and he did just that.

He had solid stats during his first year as a Wolverine and with Wagner leaving for the NBA and the graduation of seniors Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, I believe this could be Matthews’ team next season. He, along with Zavier Simpson, should be the leaders for this U of M squad for 2018-19.

Those two, along with the development of young players like Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, and a strong incoming recruiting class, that includes 4 star forward Ignas Brazdeikis out of Canada, could lead this Michigan team to heights they haven’t seen since 1989 when they last won a national championship.

Returning to school for Matthews allows him another year to grow both mentally and physically. While he stands 6’6, he only weighs around 200 pounds. Another year of college will allow him to get stronger and be able to bang with bigger bodies that come with playing in the NBA.

It will also allow him to try to improve his shooting stroke. He has no problem getting to the rim and scoring, but he also needs to develop a mid-range and outside shooting touch if he wants to make it at the next level. And while getting to the rim is nice, converting and-one’s after a foul is even nicer.

I believe, in the long run, Matthews will appreciate his decision to return to the maize and blue. Coach Beilein is a fantastic coach and will do all in his power to help him reach his ultimate potential, not only as a player but as a person as well. I think after another solid campaign in college, Matthews could become a late first rounder/early second rounder if he progresses well enough over the course of next season.

So overall, I think it was probably an easy choice for Matthews to make. While it may be his dream to one day play in the NBA, I think he realized that this year was not for him. It’s a stacked draft and he has many weaknesses that he can improve on with another year of college hoops. He was a good player this year but I think can become a great player next year.

Welcome back and good luck, Charles.

 

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Michigan Championship Game Preview and Prediction

March has come and gone and, in the blink of an eye, we’re now in April. The NCAA Men’s championship game is here and the matchup is set.

The game features a 1-seed in Villanova that many picked to get here and many chose to win it all. Their opponent is the 3-seeded Michigan Wolverines, who once sat at 19-7 after a loss to Northwestern in early February.

But that was their most recent loss, U of M is arguably the hottest team in college hoops at the moment. They are on a 14 game winning streak and that has led them to a Big 10 tournament championship and their spot in the championship game tonight. But it will be a mighty tough task if they want to keep that streak alive.

While Michigan might be the hottest team in the country, the team they are facing just may be the best squad in the nation. Villanova is on a ten game winning streak of their own and have annihilated their competition in the tournament. They’ve won every game of the tourney by double-digits, with their smallest margin of victory being 12 against West Virginia and Texas Tech and their biggest margin being 26 against Radford.

Oh, and the Wildcats just might have the best player in college basketball in Jalen Brunson. The AP Player of the Year and Wooden Award finalist has averaged 17.6 points per game in the five game of the tournament. That is slightly under his season average of 19.2, but he is still a fantastic player who is tough to stop.

He also has a teammate, Mikal Bridges, who is most likely a lottery pick in this years NBA draft. He has averaged 14.8 PPG during the tournament, which is also under his season average of 17.6, but these two are a dynamic duo who are tough to contain.

But the Wolverines have a dynamite combination of their own. Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews have played great during Michigan’s tourney run and are going to be huge keys in this game. Wagner has averaged 14.8 PPG game during the tournament, a little above his 14.6 season average. He also went off in U of M’s Final Four matchup against Loyola-Chicago, and scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds.

But Matthews has been the key cog in the Maize and Blue’s offense all tournament long. He has averaged 16.6 PPG in the five games, which is well above his 13.1 season average. He has played more aggressively and been the spark this offense needs when its leading scorer, Wagner, hasn’t played up to par.

This game is a clash of two teams who are polar opposites. Villanova has been an offensive juggernaut all year and deadly from deep. They’ve averaged 84.8 points per game and they’ve shot 42% from behind the 3-point line during the tournament. That percentage from deep is actually a little better than their already great 40% on the year.

Michigan, on the other hand, has shot poorly from beyond the arc during the tournament. They are shooting an abysmal 31.7% from 3 and that is largely bolstered by a 14-24 showing against Texas A&M. They are also only averaging 70.2 PPG in their five games, which is also inflated thanks to the 99 they scored against A&M.

But John Beilein’s team has prided itself on its defense all year, and that has been the biggest reason they’ve made it this far. Michigan, during its five games in the tourney, has held their opponents to 58.6 PPG and a measly 24% from downtown. They will need to continue this stellar defensive play if they want to stay in this game.

There are also two players, besides Wagner and Matthews, for U of M who need to come up big if they want to come out victorious. Those two guys are Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Simpson is the floor general for Michigan’s offense and will need to play better than he did against Loyola. He was scoreless and only had three assists in Saturday’s game. He will need to score, at least a few points, for his team to win this one. Simpson is also the leader of this defense, but he will have a tough task in guarding Brunson. He is used to hounding the opposing point guard and had played great all year on that end, but Brunson will be his hardest matchup by far. Slowing him down may be the key to a U of M victory.

As for MAAR, he will need to be a spark for this offense. He went 2-11 from the field for 7 points against the Ramblers on Saturday. He will need to be a lot more effective against Villanova if he wants to end his Michigan career as a champion.

Now for my prediction. While the betting line in Vegas currently sits anywhere between Nova being favored by 6 and 7, I think this game will be closer than most think. Both teams are talented and can be dangerous from deep. But I think Jay Wright ultimately gets his second championship and the Wildcats win 84-79.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolverines got hot like they did against Texas A&M and get U of M’s second championship in school history. After all, I predicted this team to get to the Final Four before the tournament started and they exceeded that by reaching the title game.

This team definitely has the talent to leave San Antonio as NCAA champions. Only time will if they will.

Back-to-Back

The Michigan Wolverines basketball team won their second consecutive Big Ten tournament. Their journey to this title was a little less dramatic and eventful than just a season ago (plane incident), but still just as sweet and satisfying for fans nonetheless.

They started off by playing Iowa on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. They defeated the Hawkeyes 77-71 in an ugly, overtime thriller. While U of M didn’t play the greatest in their opening game at MSG, their next three games showed what this team is capable when rolling on all cylinders.

Their next game took place on Friday against Nebraska, and the Wolverines routed the Cornhuskers 77-58. This match-up allowed the Maize and Blue to exact some revenge after their 72-52 loss back in mid-January.

The Wolverines then entered the semifinals with a much-anticipated rematch against Michigan State. Michigan had beaten the Spartans 82-72 earlier this season, ultimately came out victorious yet again with a 75-64 score on Saturday. A 2-0 record against your in-state rival is always nice and had to be extra sweet because people strongly believe that this is one of, if not the most, talented teams Tom Izzo has had in East Lansing.

John Beilein’s squad advanced to the finals to battle with the Purdue Boilermakers. The Wolverines played tough against them both times this season but came up empty-handed with an 0-2 record against Matt Painter’s crew. The result was not similar Sunday night when U of M controlled much of the game and came away winners of the game and the Big Ten tournament as well.

This year’s Big Ten Tournament run proved this team can potentially be very dangerous in the NCAA tournament. They saw good games from their stars and upperclassmen like Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. But they also saw solid production from lesser used players and unsung heroes like sophomore Jon Teske.

These red-hot Wolverines also proved they can overcome bad games or foul trouble from their star player, Wagner, who fouled out against Iowa and shot 4-14 (0-7 in the first half) against MSU.

This team moved up to no. 7 in the latest AP and Coaches Poll after their four tournament wins. I believe this proves that their ceiling could be a possible no. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, given that everything goes right and some of the big dogs go down early in their respective conference tournaments. Realistically, I think this team ends up being a three-seed come Selection Sunday.

Whatever seeding they receive, they’re primed to be a tough out against whoever they play and will be a dark horse Final Four candidate in my mind. John Beilein is an underrated, amazing coach, and leading this team to back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles proves just that. After all, Drake said it best when he sang “Back to Back.”…

 

Michigan Downs Oklahoma State; Advances in NCAA Tournament 


Friday afternoon, John Beilein’s 7 seeded Michigan Wolverines took the win over 10 seeded Oklahoma State 92-91. 

Derrick Walton Jr. was the leading scorer for the Wolverines with 26 points on the day. 7/13 FG’s and 6/7 FT’s for Walton. 

81.8 in team free throw percentage for the Wolverines would end up being one of the more key factors in this game allowing them to advance into the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

Michigan now awaits results from the Jacksonville State-Louisville game to find out who will be next on their journey.