Wichita State shouldn't have surprised anyone this season with the year they turned in. After a run to the NIT championship game in 2011, the Shockers were ready for this year, and a lot of that had to do with the emergence of Garrett Stutz in that NIT.
Stutz continued to improve his raw skill set over the summer and came back looking more the part of a college center as opposed to the Midwestern version of Manute Bol.
We look at what this means for Stutz' draft stock in our continuing series of mid-major NBA Draft profiles at Mid-Major Madness.
School: Wichita State (Wichita, Kan. | Missouri Valley Conference)
Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
Accolades: MVC All-Tournament Team as sophomore; NIT All-Tournament team as junior; 1st team All-MVC as senior; 2x All-MVC Most improved team
Team Record: 98-41
The thing with Stutz is that it still seems he is learning the game. You don't end up on the most improved list for your conference twice in your career without having some serious improvement to do from the time you showed up at school.
Stutz rounded out into a nice center option in the Missouri Valley, and at 7-0, 255, is a force to be reckoned with there.
He isn't as athletic as you would expect given his smaller size for a 7-footer. And that size comes after gaining almost 40 pounds since his freshman campaign, a process that required a ridiculous diet of 6,000 calories a day, and some heavy weight work.
Still, size matters in the NBA, as it did when we discussed Gonzaga's Robert Sacre, and Stutz is right there with the Bulldog big man in terms of skill and value.
Final Season Averages:
13.3 pts... 1.1 asts...8.0 rebs...1.0 blocks...2.1 turnovers..24.6 mins...54.2% FG...30.3% 3 PT...82.1% FT
Stutz went from being that big guy off the bench to an impact starter this season. After working and working at his skill, he improved in almost every category from his junior year to his final season.
His offensive game, while still lacking some finesse, finally clicked for the Shockers' star, and his rebound numbers rose in accordance with his increase in minutes on the court.
The biggest asset from a numbers standpoint is Stutz' ability to take the ball outside of the lane and still be effective. His free throw shooting is superb and he is still able to make a difference from deep. That is Dirk Nowitzki-like, albeit without some of the more refined skills that the Mavericks center brings to the court.
In terms of value last season, Stutz registered a 5.34 on the HOOPWAR scale when normalized to 30 games. That was just higher than Gonzaga's Sacre, but still trails quite a bit behind Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn.
The same is true on defense, where Stutz saved a little more than 18 points per 100 minutes on the floor. That is fairly decent for a big man, but still isn't elite, something that teams will point to when choosing not to take him.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
As we noted, Stutz has the offensive ability to develop into a nice scoring option as a big man in the NBA, but it is still raw. He doesn't take a lot of shots from outside the lane, and that portion of his game, while obviously there, isn't as refined as it could be at this point.
He is a strong rebounder, and sets his position well under the block.
He throws his body around well and can be a face-the-basket shooter. He'll have to do more of each in the pros.
Stutz is still a raw talent at both ends of the floor and still needs to develop even more strength to contend over 82 games in the NBA. He lacks the speed and first-step ability that you would like to see inside, though, and that will be exploited by the more athletic centers in the league.
He is also not a great jumper which could see him getting out-hustled to rebounds in the NBA.
When you look at where Stutz may end up, you have to remember what was said about Robert Sacre: the Gonzaga big man might get drafted just because of his size, something that every team covets in the league.
The skills for Stutz are about the same. The concerns are about the same, although you would think teams would be higher on Sacre just because of the athleticism that he displays versus what Stutz brings to the table.
But neither of those guys would be considered elite center talents, and both lag behind O'Quinn from the mid-major ranks. O'Quinn has the chance to go in the first round. These two may not get drafted at all -- a very clear indication of the drop in value at the center position after the first five or six names.
It could be a long night for the Stutz family.