Team preview: Eastern Illinois

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 4:20 PM ET
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Eastern Illinois coach Rick Samuels is able to find a positive from a very disappointing 2003-04 season.

Falling to a share of the OVC cellar was a learning experience for the players, as was their trip to Costa Rica in the spring.

"We had five seniors benefit from a difficult experience last season and then have positive experiences from the foreign trip," Samuels said. "That group must show a united and determined effort to build a great team."

Samuels lost only one key player from the 2003-04 team -- 6-8 senior forward/post Jesse Mackinson (9.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg).

Not only do the Panthers return most of last year's team, they also have several newcomers who should give them a much-needed boost.