Team preview: Eastern Washington

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 25th anniversary 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.)

Eastern Washington coach Mike Burns' debut turned out to be a season he would most likely want to forget. The Eagles, behind one of the Big Sky's best players in Marc Axton, where predicted to contend for a league title, but plummeted to depths not seen in Cheney in several seasons. Burns took over for Ray Giacolletti, who is now roaming the sideline at the University of Utah.

Now without Axton, who had graduated, and two other starters -- Matt Nelson and Danny Pariseau -- who left the program, Burns' second year could be equally disastrous, if not worse. Axton led the squad in scoring, and Nelson provided a big 6-9 body underneath. He has taken his talents to Boise State. Pariseau topped the Eagles in assists and just bolted the program.

There aren't any superstars to build around, but Burns isn't without talent. Only two starters return in 6-3, 205-pound senior guard Deuce Smith, and 6-8, 235-pound sophomore Jake Beitinger. Smith averaged 7.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game in his first year at EWU after transferring from junior college. He also earned 25 starts.

Beitinger started 13 games and chipped in 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, but he has a very nice upside.