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Five true freshmen. Two transfers. A first-time sophomore. A team manager turned walk-on.

The No. 22 Michigan men’s basketball team’s enormous roster turnover is extensive — the Wolverines’ roster looks completely different from that of last year. But one thing that hasn’t changed is how Michigan coach Juwan Howard handles his team’s pre-season preparation. 

When Howard spoke at Michigan Media Day on Oct. 14, he said he’s approaching preseason preparation following the “same script” he has followed leading up to his first three seasons as the Wolverines’ head coach. He’s found a system that he’s unwilling to deviate from as the season start approaches, and is pleased with his team’s chemistry on the practice floor so far.

It may be the same script, but a new cast always poses challenges. Finding the right lineup pairings, establishing connectivity on the court and creating cohesion on both ends of the floor is difficult even for the most veteran of groups. 

But Howard doesn’t look at it that way. For him, it’s just another day in the office. 

“I am the guy that you’re looking at to put it together, so I hope it works,” Howard quipped at Big Ten Media Days on Oct. 12. 

Indeed, the onus is on Howard not just to bring in the best pieces, but to bring in players that fit together seamlessly. It’s also on him to foster that connection, creating schemes that complement his players’ abilities and allow them to fluidly gel together. 

And so far all his team can do is practice, trying to figure it out. But, as Howard bluntly pointed out, he is sticking to the script.

Luckily for the Wolverines, ‘Act One’ with their new cast is quite light. 

Opening with an exhibition against Division-II opponent Ferris State, followed by games against Purdue Fort Wayne and Eastern Michigan, should give Michigan plenty of time to begin acclimating, and Howard plenty of time to evaluate how the new roster fits on the floor. 

And based off the small sample size at practice, the roster could be meshing even better than last year’s.

“I think this team just fits a little bit better than last year,” Dickinson said on Oct. 12. “ … We probably had more talent last year than this year. … We definitely brought in a lot of talent (this year), but I think this talent fits a lot better and I feel like the guys play for each other a lot more this year, and I think it’s just going to be a (much) more successful season for us.”

The actual personnel and rotations that will serve as fact-checkers for Dickinson’s claims — one way or another — are yet to be finalized. Who will make the optimal backcourt pairing? What will best compliment Dickinson in the post? Which forwards are most capable of stretching the floor? All will come into focus as the team looks to congeal. 

But the fact that Michigan still needs to integrate everyone together isn’t in question. As Howard sticks to his pre-season routine, it’s something that he’s embracing. 

“In coaching, (there’s) always going to be something evolving,” Howard said. “There’s always going to be fluidity and you have to be ready to pivot on what is being thrown at you, and it’s been fun.” 

Despite greater roster turnover than past seasons, Howard remains steadfast in the process he’s put in place — his script — and his team’s ability to respond to it as the season looms. He believes in the team’s chemistry, and leaders like Dickinson see the pieces coming in place. 

Because despite the drastically different cast, the show must go on. And in less than a week, the Wolverines are pulling back the curtain.