Charles Matthews and Michigan are just one win away from winning it all.
Before the 2017-18 college basketball season began, that phrase may have been laughed at.
But now, after Michigan has rattled off 14 consecutive wins, the Wolverines will be playing in the National Championship Game of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face off against No. 1-seeded Villanova on Monday night. With a win, Michigan basketball will win only its second national championship, and its first since 1989.
While Michigan has gotten this far thanks to all-around team play, a strong case could be made that Michigan would not be where it is right now without Matthews. The redshirt sophomore guard has been a key cog in Michigan’s run throughout the tournament.
So before Michigan takes on Villanova on Monday, let’s learn a little more about Matthews.
5 things to know about Charles Matthews
1. Matthews was the No. 2 prospect from Illinois in the 2015 recruiting class
Matthews — who grew up in Chicago — attended St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, where he established himself as both a solid offensive and defensive player.
The former 4-star prospect was the No. 2-ranked player from Illinois in his recruiting class, the No. 16 shooting guard nationally and the No. 60 player overall, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Matthews played in the USA Basketball 3-on-3 Under-18 Tournament in 2014 with teammates Braxton Blackwell, Tim Delaney and Kipper Nichols, and the group would go on to win the tournament. In addition, Matthews was named the tournament MVP.
To finish off his high school basketball career, Matthews played in the 2015 Jordan Brand Classic.
2. Matthews wasn’t always with Michigan
While Matthews looks as though he has been playing for Michigan coach John Beilein for a couple seasons, he is actually playing in his first season with the Wolverines.
Matthews initially attended Kentucky in 2015 to play for coach John Calipari. Although Matthews played in all 36 games the Wildcats played that season, he only averaged 10.3 minutes per game. In his limited playing time, he averaged 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent from the field.
That season, Kentucky was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Indiana.
After the season, Matthews had hip surgery, and later was granted a release from the team in May 2016. Later, Matthews committed to Michigan, but would have to sit out the 2016-17 season because of NCAA transfer rules. Last season, he served as a member of Michigan’s practice and scout teams.
3. Matthews struggled in Big Ten play this season
While Matthews got out to a great start for the Wolverines this season, scoring 20 or more points in six of Michigan’s first 14 games, he struggled to keep that consistency once the team entered Big Ten play.
After scoring a career-high 31 points against Alabama A&M on Dec. 21, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound guard would not score over 20 points again until Michigan’s first-round matchup with Montana in the NCAA Tournament on March 15. Matthews scored 20 points in that game, which is his tournament-high thus far.
During conference play, Matthews never scored more than 16 points in a game.
This season, overall, Matthews is averaging 13.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 30 minutes per game while shooting 49.9 percent from the field.
4. When asked about Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean, Matthews had no clue who she was
After Michigan defeated Florida State, 58-54, in the Elite Eight on March 21, Matthews spoke with reporters after the game. With Michigan having already punched its ticket to the Final Four to take on Loyola-Chicago, Matthews was asked about Loyola’s team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
The question was fair, considering Sister Jean has been arguably more popular than Loyola’s players throughout the team’s run.
However, Matthews was confused after hearing the question, looking at his nearby teammates for guidance. He literally had no clue who Sister Jean was.
“I don’t really know who she is,” Matthews told the reporter. “I don’t know who Sister Jean is, no disrespect.”
Matthews was brought up to speed on Sister Jean, but his lack of knowledge on her at the time provided a hilarious moment.
Michigan defeated Loyola, 69-57, in the Final Four.
5. He earned the West Region Most Outstanding Player Award
In order to get to the Final Four, Michigan defeated Montana, Houston, Texas A&M and Florida State. Matthews played well in each of those games, proving to be reliable on both offense and defense.
His play resulted in him being named the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player. However, according to an article by MLive.com’s Andrew Kahn, Matthews did not know that they gave out that award.
“I didn’t even know they gave out MVPs for the region,” he said in the article.
In those four games, Matthews averaged 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 52 percent in 32.8 minutes per game.
In Michigan’s Final Four win over Loyola, Matthews finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 1 block. Also, Matthews shot 7 of 12 from the floor and 1 of 2 from 3-point range in the victory.