The 2009-2010 edition of the Baylor Bear basketball team was somewhat of a mystery to start the year.
Coming off of back-to-back postseason appearances (NCAA followed by NIT) Baylor graduated its winningest senior class in history, at least for the time being.
The most knowledgeable of Bears fans expected a down year. After all, Baylor was losing Curtis Jerrells, their leading man in assists and points, along with Kevin Rogers, their leading rebounder. However, the Bears have had a better season this year than last, already at 20 wins and looking at a near guaranteed NCAA Tournament berth.
Here are a few key differences in this year's Baylor team, and the Bears teams of past years.
In the Big 12 tournament last year, Coach Scott Drew abandoned the man-to-man defense, moving to a 2-3 zone, and has stuck with that decision this year.
With the second tallest team in the nation, Baylor plays a very long version of the zone, making it tough for opposing teams to get off an open three-pointer when the Bears are hustling.
The 2-3 zone and the length of the Bears make them sixth in the Nation in Defensive Field Goal Percentage, up from 161 last year.
Also, the addition of Ekpe Udoh (More Below) has been key. When teams break down the zone and get into the middle, Udoh alters nearly every shot.
Rebounding has also been an effect of the zone; they now rank sixth best in the NCAA in rebounding margin, a 176 spot jump from the previous year.
2. Tweety Carter
Last year with Jerrells running the Baylor show, the Bears were a very stagnant offense in which Jerrells would dribble around and then toss up a shot whenever he felt best. However, with Carter at the helm, the Bears are running something that resembles an offense.
Carter is much more of a true point guard than Jerrells ever was, and it shows in the difference in assists. Carter is averaging 6.3 assists per game while Jerrells only averaged 4.9 per game last year.
Carter does a great job of involving his teammates, but won't hesitate to take and hit the big shot when the Bears need it. Averaging 15.9 points per game, Tweety is second on the Baylor team, and has a tendency to hit huge shots right when the Bears need them.
If you've seen Baylor play a game this year, it's obvious that Tweety is an upgrade at the point guard position from Jerrells. He might be the biggest surprise this season for Baylor basketball.
3. Ekpe Udoh
Udoh, who is a Junior transfer from Michigan, has been a huge surprise for this year's Baylor team.
Ekpe was forced to sit out a year because of his transfer, and he wisely used that year to improve every facet of his game.
Udoh is a walking double double, averaging 13.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and is possibly the best big man ever to play for the Bears.
Udoh is also a defensive force, averaging 4.3 blocks per game which is fifth best in Division One basketball.
At 6'10", Udoh uses great body control to alter every shot brought into the middle of the zone. Possibly even more incredible is the fact that Udoh has only fouled out of one game, an overtime win at Texas.
Udoh has seen his draft stock sky rocket into a potential lottery pick, but for everyone in Waco's sake, hopefully he will stick around for one more year.
Udoh is the X factor for this Baylor team.
Sitting at 20-6, this year's Baylor team is on its way to the NCAA tournament and has the ability to make a possible Sweet 16 run. If Baylor is to continue having success they will need to hustle and play tough defense in their zone, and also rely on the two guys mentioned above to carry the Bears on the offensive and defensive end of the court.