Charles Matthews, No. 2 Michigan Rout No. 15 Montana, Advance to Play Florida

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 22, 2019

Michigan's Charles Matthews, left, dunks over Montana's Bobby Moorehead (24) during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Charles Matthews led No. 2 Michigan with 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Wolverines beat No. 15 Montana 74-55 in the first round of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament on Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ignas Brazdeikis posted 14 points and seven rebounds, and Zavier Simpson contributed four points, 10 assists and seven boards.

Sayeed Pridgett scored 17 points on 8-of-16 shooting for the Grizzlies, who fell to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.


Michigan Needs Best Version of Charles Matthews to Make Deep Run

Matthews played an invaluable role during Michigan's run to the national championship game last season, as he averaged 16.0 points on 53.2 percent shooting during the Wolverines' five wins. Without his fantastic efforts, the Wolverines wouldn't have reached that far.

The same sentiment can be applied to this season: Michigan needs another heroic March from Matthews to make it back to the Final Four. But the gap between Matthews' ceiling and floor is large.

For example, the senior co-captain dropped 21 points and seven rebounds against top-seeded UNC in November. He also posted a 25-point, 10-rebound double-double versus Western Michigan.

However, Matthews has shot just 33.3 percent from the field in his team's six losses this season, and an 8-of-11 effort at Penn State boosts that number. He also made no more than three field goals in a game during a six-contest stretch in mid-winter. Michigan lost two of those six games—both by double digits.

The Wolverines got a glimpse of Matthews' March magic Thursday, however, thanks to 11 points and seven rebounds in the first half alone.

He contributed more than points and boards, as evidenced by this impressive full-court hockey assist:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Michigan runs the break to perfection! 🔨 #MarchMadness https://t.co/DhEwtPs1Vu

If Matthews is still bothered by the late-season ankle injury that kept him out for a game, he didn't show it on this play as he ran down the court and finished in the lane with traffic:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Michigan is on a roll! They've jumped out to an early 21-6 lead over Montana! 🏀 #MarchMadness https://t.co/NUu7lFpswL

Generally speaking, the Wolverines seem to go as Matthews goes. Michigan had no trouble with Montana while the senior co-captain dominated, for example.

The Wolverines will face tougher teams than the Grizzlies down the stretch, but Matthews has proved capable of dominating some of the best competition Division I hoops has to offer.

Another successful postseason could be in the cards for Michigan.


What's Next?

The 29-6 Wolverines will play in Des Moines on Saturday against No. 10 Florida.

The Grizzlies end their season with a 26-9 mark.