ANAHEIM, Calif. — As Michigan exited the court at Honda Center Thursday night, Wolverine senior guard Charles Matthews had a towel wrapped around his head and Jordan Poole’s arm wrapped around his shoulder as his the sophomore tried to console the Matthews after Michigan’s 63-44 loss to Texas Tech in the Sweet 16. For the Chicago native, it was likely the end of a celebrated career at Michigan that saw the team go 63-15 during his two seasons as a player.
“63 wins in two years,” John Beilein told reporters after the game. “And if you take the work he did on the scout team when he was ineligible… Three Sweet 16’s and a final two. He’s a no maintenance kid, he’s a great student, he has done a wonderful job. He’s brought great definition to our defense as well. We’re very said his college career is ending. He will have big imprint on Michigan forever.”
While Matthews himself has not declared his intention to go pro after three years at Michigan with one year of eligibility remaining, Beilein and the players seemed to accept the possibility that the former Kentucky transfer will turn professional. Matthews himself was short on words in the locker room after the loss, sitting towards the back of his locker.
“I wanted to win,” Matthews said when asked about his team’s achievements this season. “Didn’t accomplish the overall goal.”
Despite the feeling of sadness permeating across the room, the Wolverines were willing to reflect on the season that was. One that ended with 30 wins and saw Michigan compete for the Big Ten championship, the Big Ten Tournament championship, and return to the Sweet 16 for a third straight year. Isaiah Livers, who could be in line to replace Matthews in the starting lineup next season, reflected on his teammate’s career.
“His tenacity, his grittiness, and how he is so motivated and how focused he is,” Livers said of Matthews. “I envy how focused he is and I know next year when I am a junior it’s gonna be a lot of things that he taught me coming into this season as a sophomore that I never thought about in my entire life. What is your goal? What do you want? I feel like Charles wakes up and he has that goal that he plays for, so I am gonna try to do something like that.”
While Matthews departure will leave Michigan with a sizable gap on defense and presence in the locker room, the Wolverines foundation looks strong entering next season. As of now, Matthews is the only expected departure. A couple players could declare for the draft, a few others could transfer but Michigan has the recipe to contend once again next season. Despite the season ending in disappointment in Anaheim, Beilein discussed the approach he takes to consoling Matthews and his team and shifting its focus towards next year.
“What you try to explain to them is that there’s only one team, and an NIT team as well, that will end with a win this year,” Beilein said. “I’ve been coaching a long time and it only ended with a win one time when we won the NIT at West Virginia (2007.) It’s hard but it’s life. Look at the 63 wins, look at the impact he’s made on our program, you should be very proud of yourself. Finish up .now your credits that you have right now and we look forward to watching his future.”
Should Matthews turn pro, he leaves Ann Arbor having played in 75 games while shooting 46.6% FG, scoring 12.6 points per game, pulling down 5.3 rebounds per game, and dishing two assists per game. There will be some unanswered questions in a season of many “what if’s” for both Matthews and Michigan. Despite Thursday ending in disappointment Matthews will ultimately be remembered for his tenacious defense, and being a lynchpin in Michigan’s defensive revolution since his playing career began.