Coming into the season, Wisconsin was pegged as the clear second-best team in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, and for good reason. The Badgers had an excellent season a year ago, playing their typical stifling defense and smart, deliberate offense.

Among the team’s returners are point guard Jordan Taylor, a First Team All-Big Ten performer last season, and forward Mike Bruezewitz, a solid role player known for his spectacular red, bouncy curls (though all that hair is now gone, as he shaved his head for charity).

Wisconsin has struggled more than expected so far, dropping its last two Big Ten games to Iowa and Michigan State — at home, no less. But Badgers coach Bo Ryan’s team will still present a formidable challenge for Michigan when the Wolverines welcome the Badgers to Crisler Arena on Sunday.

Back at Big Ten Media Day in October, Taylor and Bruezewitz sat down with the Daily to discuss the upcoming season.

The Michigan Daily: Jordan, your coach, Bo Ryan, is known as one of the better characters in college basketball, but he also has a reputation as one of the tougher headmen in the conference. What’s it like to play for him?

Jordan Taylor: “It’s fun. It’s a challenge, it’s always tough, but it’s definitely fun. He makes sure you’re always ready to go, and you’re never relaxed, but that’s a good thing. He does something right in the recruiting process, because he knows what type of guys will buy in to what he’s teaching. He does a great job of teaching them the right way to play basketball. It’s been successful for however many years, dating back all the way even to his (Wisconsin-Plattville) years, his D-III years. He’s an extremely successful coach. He’s doing something right.”

TMD: As far as your game, you’re getting a lot of preseason attention, with a lot of people calling you the best point guard in the country. Is it hard to prevent that kind of stuff from getting to your head?

JT: “No, I don’t think so, because it’s called a preseason award. I don’t even really consider those (awards). I mean, it’s an honor, but it’s not really an accolade. You haven’t even played a minute yet. I think that makes part of the season fun. You’ve got something to strive for, something to go out and challenge. I’m just looking forward to having a good year and getting better game by game.”

TMD: You’ve played, and thrived, in a lot of big-time situations in your career. A lot of those have come as a result of being matched up with another top-notch point guard, like Michigan’s Darius Morris last season. Does playing against other elite guards bring out the best in you?

JT: “Definitely. It’s fun, and it brings out the best in you. You may not win every one, individually, but the goal is to win the game. It’s a lot of fun. There’s good point guards out there on pretty much every team in the Big Ten, which makes this conference so fun, especially for guards.”

TMD: Switching to you, Mike, you’re obviously known for your former hairstyle more than anything else. What made you decide to go with that look last season?

Mike Bruesewitz: When I did it, a lot of my teammates said, ‘Oh, you’ll cut it within the first two weeks, you won’t have that all year,’ and everything. I was kind of like, ‘Alright, we’ll see.’ It was kind of one of those, I’ll prove you guys wrong, I’ll stick it to you guys (things). People were just kind of laughing at it. I thought it was fun. You can’t be too serious in life, I guess is the way to put it. That was pretty fun, but it’s over now.

TMD: I’m sure you heard it from the fans during road games.

MB: “I’ll be honest, some of the fans have to come up with something better. I’ve heard the “ginger” (comments) and every other generic red-headed comment that I’ve pretty much heard my whole life. There were certain times where I’d actually get after fans. One of the better ones was actually one of the Michigan fans. He called me the “soulless Richard Simmons,” which I actually found hilarious. Some of the arenas you go to, they’re pretty hostile, but I kind of got over it. It wasn’t too big a deal.

TMD: Getting back to basketball, Wisconsin is known as being a scrappy, gritty team that’ll go all out to get a loose ball or a rebound. You, especially, embody that style, so where does that come from?

MB: “That’s just how I’ve always played. I’ve always been the kind of guy, the bring the lunch pail to work, blue-collar, go to work, get stuff done, get all the dirty work done (kind of guy). People view that as an energy guy, but that’s just how I play. That’s the style I was brought up in. It’s something I learned at a young age because I had a 6-foot-9 older brother who played offensive line at Princeton that, to this day, still likes to show that he’s bigger and stronger than me. I grew up in that environment, having to be the bulldog despite being a little undersized, a little undermanned.”

TMD: You guys obviously lost a lot of frontcourt production with Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil graduating. For you, though, that means that you’re suddenly in the spotlight in the middle. Do you feel any pressure because of that?

MB: “Not really. That’s kind of what I worked for all summer. That’s why I play the game, to accept more challenges and hopefully get better. Having those frontcourt guys leave, there’s a ton of minutes out there.”

TMD: Finishing up with you again, Jordan, you looked at entering the NBA Draft after last season and you’ll obviously be trying to make it in the league after this year. I know you’ll say you’re just focused on this season, but you’ve got to be looking forward to that opportunity, right?

JT: I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the goal. I’m sure every basketball player in this room — or every male basketball player — to go to the NBA, I’m sure it’s a goal for them. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I think that this year is going to play a big role in that, so I just try to take care of first things first and go from there.

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