Mike Bruesewitz: Go big or go home

What is it like to play college basketball in March? Former Wisconsin Badgers forward Mike Bruesewitz recalls his "rock star" days at Wisconsin and how it compares to the postseason run in Israel.

I hope to bring an Israeli championship to Malha Arena, our home gym.

Mike Bruesewitz

Madness is once again upon us and it'€™s tourney time for the youngsters of college basketball. This is the most magical time of the year and to be a part of the big dance is one of the greatest experiences of any basketball player’s career.

It doesn’t matter if you are an All-American or the last player on the bench, all eyes are on the bubble watch and these next two weeks are filled with conference tournaments around the country. Everyone is trying their darndest to punch their ticket to the big dance and make their mark in One Shining Moment. What people often don’t get to see is all the cool stuff that goes on behind the scenes and all the wonderful perks of getting to participate in probably the greatest basketball tournament in the world.

Well, lucky for you I happened to be a part of a four of them so I guess you could call me a seasoned vet.

The perks of being a college basketball player this time of year are unparalleled. You get police escorts everywhere, everyone lingers around your hotel begging you for an autograph and there is an insane amount of beverage choices every room you walk into. All your traveling is done privately and you get to skip just about every line that you see. Seriously, you feel like a rock star that is going on a tour throughout the U.S. with a giant road crew of cheerleaders, band members and various members of administration (you are welcome for the free vacation).

I would like to say we still are concerned about our studies but that would be a bold-face lie. For me this time of year was strictly basketball and school would be put on the back burner for about four weeks. This was a bold strategy and would lead to finishing papers and projects at the very last second and barely making the deadline, but I would always get it done and I did graduate so suck it college.

Now as a professional we are just starting to get to the end of the regular season. We have another four or five weeks until the playoffs start and this is the time of the year known as grind time. Playing professionally is very cool and honestly I feel like a rock star every day minus the entourage of friends, attractive females, paparazzi and all the other things that come with it. I still get the rush of a police escort from time to time on road trips but it has a very different feel. Instead of it being mostly for show and fun, now there are actually dangers that accompany them mostly stemming from the difference in religions and cultures. Another great part about being a professional is never having to put school on the back burner because there is no school. Now I can nerd out all I want and never actually have to turn in another paper or take another pointless chemistry test in my life.

I have yet to go through a professional playoff series but I know that week is going to be one of the first stressful weeks of the season. We are trying to advance to the Elite 8 of the Eurocup. We play our second game of a two-game series Ulm, Germany, who my former teammate Keaton Nankivil plays for. We lost the first game by two points and in order to advance we need to win by three. I believe we can and sincerely hope we do because I hate losing and the more games you win the more money you make.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of four NCAA tournament teams and it was by far the most fun time of the year because the stakes were go big or go home. I am really looking forward to seeing how these next three months shake out and get my first professional playoff series under my belt. My team is still doing well and I think we could make some history by bringing the first-ever Israeli league championship to Jerusalem this year.

Although I am 6,000 miles away I am still starting to get that special feeling in my stomach that only comes around when the end of the season is near and I wish the best of luck to my Badgers as they head into the greatest tournament in sports.

(Note:You can find the archive of Mike Bruesewitz's Imported Bru stories and photo galleries here and listen to his latest podcast here.)

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