Have you heard? There”s a new coach for the Michigan basketball team. Have you heard? Crisler Arena is going to have an entirely new feel to it. Have you heard? The Michigan uniforms look different more classic and the players have a beautiful new lockerroom. Have you heard? The beginning is now, but the end is certainly not this coming April.

The word “rebuilding” is often used to describe a program in transition after losing key players, or after a particularly hard fall from the top. It is also used when new personnel are brought in. Michigan basketball is using the word because it is suffering from all three unfortunate criteria.

But for a team that has reached the NCAA Tournament just once in the past five seasons and has not advanced past the second round since Juwan Howard was throwing the rock around Crisler, there is a lot of positivism.

Tommy Amaker is the new man on the bench. He is a protg of Duke”s Mike Krzyzewski, under whom he played and coached. His plans are long term, but he has outlined it clearly. “Passion” and “patience” are the buzzwords. And while many people are willing to be patient, there is still a sense that something exciting may happen this year.

“I think things have gone better than we could have anticipated to this point,” Amaker said a month ago. “I think there”s an excitement about our basketball program. There”s an enthusiasm that we sense has been lacking somewhat. We”re very proud to try to earn that now.”

How might that happen?

This is a team that has problems, and is aware of them. The Wolverines lack depth up front. Six-foot-nine forward Chris Young and 7-foot-2 center Josh Moore are the only big men that saw significant minutes last year. Neither has shown that he can consistently avoid foul trouble, and players may have to play out of position if that continues.

“Every time I think about (the frontcourt situation) I think that Josh Moore and I have to play incredibly, incredibly smart throughout the whole game,” Young said. “Neither of us can afford to pick up three quick fouls in the first half. We just can”t do it. And if we do we”re not going to help the team out.”

Depth problems aside, both Young and Moore could potentially help out the team out dramatically. Young emerged last year as a consistent threat up front, averaging 8.6 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. Moore showed positive signs last year, if only in spurts. His failure to stay out of foul trouble translated into an inability to find any kind of rhythm on the floor.

The strength of this team will again be in junior LaVell Blanchard and sophomore Bernard Robinson. The two averaged a combined 32.2 points per game last year, and Blanchard showed that he is among the best rebounders in the Big Ten, averaging 8.4 boards per game. That total was enough to make him third-best in the conference.

Blanchard is considered to be one of the best players in the country. And Robinson should show considerable improvements after a year of growth, and with consistent minutes.

The point guard position is apparently still not determined. Avery Queen, who ran the point last year, averaged 4.3 assists per game. That figure will need to improve if he is to be effective. Two freshmen (Dommanic Ingerson and Marcus Bennett) and one fifth-year senior (Mike Gotfredson) will give Queen competition for the starting spot.

Defensively, Michigan was worst in the conference last year, but Amaker is a defensive specialist having won the National Defensive Player of the Year award in 1987. For the better part of the preseason, Amaker had his new squad run plenty of defensive drills. He subscribes to the old football philosophy that good defense creates good offense. Look for Michigan to take advantage of fast-break opportunities off of turnovers and defensive rebounds.

Time travel happens quickly in the movies (at around 88 m.p.h., actually), but not so much in the history of a college basketball program. The trip back to 1989, or 1993, will begin at the tipoff in Crisler on Nov. 16. And while no one expects Michigan to be back on top on Nov. 17, or even on March 17, there are expectations, nevertheless.

“It should be different,” tri-captain Leon Jones said. “It”s the same team but it”s a year older, and a different coaching staff. We”ve seen a lot of things within us since (Amaker) has been here.”

No.WolverinePos. Ht.Wt.Cl./Elig.

0 Leon JonesG6-4195Sr./Sr.

1 Avery QueenG5-7150So./So.

3 Marcus BennettG6-3185Fr./Fr.

4 Collin DillF6-7225So./So.

10 Herb GibsonF6-5205Sr./Sr.

11Dommanic IngersonG6-4185Fr./Fr.

12 Mike GotfredsonG5-111755th-Sr.

20 Ron GarberF6-8205Sr./Sr.

21 Bernard Robinson F6-6185So./So.

23 Gavin GroningerG6-5190Jr./Jr.

30 LaVell BlanchardF6-7205Jr./Jr.

32Chuck BaileyF6-7195Fr./Fr.

34 Josh MooreC7-2305So./So.

45 Chris YoungF/C6-9220Sr./Sr.

52Rotolu AdebiyiF6-5210Sr./Sr.

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