Team preview: Oregon State

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 326 Division I teams. To order the complete 2006-07 edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Last season was supposed to be the culmination of a four-year rebuilding project under coach Jay John. Oregon State was coming off its first winning season and postseason appearance since the Gary Payton era 15 years previous. A strong nucleus was in place with three returning starters, including Blue Ribbon preseason All-Pac-10 selection Nick DeWitz, a senior forward. We had the Beavers pegged for sixth place, a likely NCAA Tournament bubble team.

A year later, after watching his team suffer through injuries and finish tied for eighth in Pac-10, John says it's time for another rebuilding project. Such is life at Oregon State. Among the major conferences, only Baylor and Northwestern have longer active streaks of not having earned an NCAA Tournament invitation. The Beavers haven't been to the Big Dance since 1990.

"When we began, our starting point was such that we had a total and complete rebuilding process before us. We're still in the midst of that," John said. "We've had some measure of success that had not been experienced here in prior years. Yet we're still on the outside looking in, especially as it relates to postseason play.

"We've approached this off-season in many ways like we just got hired, except that so many of the things in terms of the infrastructure that were not in place are now in place. We feel like we're starting anew. There's a new energy within the program."

Make no mistake, though, John -- who signed a five-year contract extension last December that extends through the 2011-12 season -- expects significant improvement this winter.

"I'll be disappointed if early in the season, I don't look out on the court and these guys aren't better than what we were last season," John said. "We have high hopes; we want to make the jump this season. The players understand that."

The Beavers actually ended the season with back-to-back wins over Oregon and Arizona State before bowing to UCLA in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals. At that point, the seniors, including DeWitz and point guard Lamar Hurd, were injured, meaning if nothing else, the returning players have a little momentum.