The prevailing narrative heading into Friday’s first NCAA Tournament game at the Sprint Center is one of contrast.
Mississippi, the No. 12 seed in the West Region, is an up-tempo bunch, eager to run and push the pace, while fifth-seeded Wisconsin is a plodding, defensive-minded team.
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The Rebels are also the bad boys, a rowdy bunch that baits fans and rattles nerves, while the Badgers are a buttoned-up, clean-cut bunch that plays the game “the right way,” whatever that means.
Like most narratives of this kind, it’s an oversimplification.
For starters, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan prefers to be known as physical.
But it’s the characterization that Mississippi is a character-filled bunch, while Badgers are devoid of personality that truly misses the mark.
And no player proves that more than Wisconsin senior forward Mike Bruesewitz, a 6-foot-6 native of St. Paul, Minn., who sports a floppy red mop of hair reminiscent of Kramer’s do from Seinfeld.
“He’s obviously a character and a free spirit,” Wisconsin freshman forward Sam Dekker said.
Bruesewitz was named one of the Cosmo’s 26 “Hottest Guys of March Madness,” but he also receives plenty of commentary from haters via Twitter about his unkempt mane — and he’s not afraid to mix it up.
On the court, while it’s not quite to the extent of Mississippi guard Marshall Henderson, Bruesewitz doesn’t shy away from engaging opposing fans either.
“I may have done it from time to time,” Bruesewitz said.
Much like Henderson, Bruesewitz serves as a rallying force emotionally when needed.
“We feed off him a little bit,” Dekker said, “but I have some of that in my game too. I really like working up the crowd and pumping people up, anything to raise the energy of the building. It makes it more fun. Ryan (Evans) will do that some too. We’ve got our own personalities.”
Of course, there is a line the Badgers won’t cross — for example, hopping atop a scorer’s table and popping the jersey at the crowd.
“Oh, no, coach would never allow that,” Dekker said with a laugh.