Recently named a member of Cosmopolitan’s “Hottest Guys of March Madness 2013,” Wisconsin redshirt senior Mike Bruesewitz was not surprised.
“Absolutely not,” Bruesewitz said with a straight face. “I deserve to be on that list. I worked extremely hard to be on that list. I clearly am very concerned about my appearance at all times. I just got swag, according to Marshall Henderson.”
His teammates, however, were in a state of shock.
“That’s a shocker. I think that’s our first major upset of March right there,” Jared Berggren, senior forward, joked upon hearing the news.
“I don’t know who judges on that stuff,” Sam Dekker, freshman forward, said.
“I have several sources that were shocked by the decision,” Berggren laughed.
“They could have had anyone on this team and they picked Mike,” Dekker said, this time with a look of obvious disappointment.
All kidding aside, the “Seinfeld” Kramer look-alike with the ferocious tomato-top haircut will need to prove he’s hotter than just his looks when it comes to competing in March Madness.
Bruesewitz, once renowned as a player with a knack for the big shot after hitting a dagger three to beat No. 1 Ohio State in 2011, has struggled to make three-pointers in 2013. This season the forward is just 28 percent from deep, the worst percentage of any player on the Badgers who has attempted at least 40 shots from beyond the line.
In the Big Ten Tournament, Bruesewitz was absolutely vital in helping the Badgers advance to the conference final. He provided a solid fourth option of offense against Michigan, knocking down two of his four attempts from three, helping to stretch his defender farther out to the line and away from senior forward Ryan Evans and Berggren in the post.
Against Indiana, the senior hit one of his two attempts, making the Hoosiers continue to respect him as an outside threat in a continuation from his hot shooting against the Wolverines.
In the championship game against Ohio State, Bruesewitz shot his season average from beyond the arc, going 2-for-7 from deep. Many of the looks were open too, with the Buckeyes hesitant to close out too far, valuing Berggren and Evans in the post more than Bruesewitz from three.
For taking the third most threes on the team and almost being the statistically worst three-point shooter, it may be time for Bruesewitz to turn back inside. And even though it’s hard to invest too much in statistics, Bruesewitz is a combined 4-for-19 from three in the team’s last four losses.
It’s a situation similar to Evans, who struggled for a majority of the season to make his mid-range jumpers. As the season winded down, Evans turned into primarily a post player, who would look to score down low before drifting out for any perimeter catches.
But there’s a reason why Bruesewitz starts and the entire nation knows it. He’s the glue guy, head coach Bo Ryan’s prototypical small forward who relies on toughness and grit to make his impact. He’s only led the team in scoring in one game this season, but Bruesewitz makes up for a lack of offensive points with his overall game. Assists, rebounds, steals and floor burn, Bruesewitz has earned admiration nationally for his play and boisterous personality.
In fact, Wisconsin assistant coach Greg Gard sees a bit of a likeness between the redhead and one of their upcoming opponent’s players: Marshall Henderson.
“He likes to have fun, I guess,” Gard said in reference to Henderson. “I think our No. 31 likes to have fun too. Maybe he’s our version of Henderson.”
There’s no doubt about the fun part. After defeating Indiana to move on to the Big Ten Tournament finals, Bruesewitz bounced around as he walked out of the United Center. Upon seeing Ohio State waiting in the hallway to take the floor for its game with Michigan State, Bruesewitz chimed “Good luck fellas, see you all tomorrow alright”?
The Buckeyes can deny it all they want, but most of them cracked a warm smile.
“We need the passion, energy and toughness that he brings to the team,” Berggren said. “He does all the little things… that have been trademarks of the program over the years that he really buys into and brings to the team. When he’s healthy for us and playing at a high level it makes us a better team.”
It’s not as simple as it seems, but the Badgers offense truly comes to life when Bruesewitz is hitting his outside shots. Look at the four tournament wins the forward has been a part of in his career. Between the 2011 and 2012 tournament, Bruesewitz went a combined 8-for-12 from three and scored 37 points.
In the two losses he’s experienced, Bruesewitz managed to go a combined 0-for-5 from deep and score just nine points. So keep an eye on the Wisconsin player with the red hair.