MILWAUKEE, Wis. -

Almost exactly one-year removed from winning the WIAA Division 3 state championship, La Crosse Aquinas graduate Bronson Koenig is about to hit another major milestone in his playing career. His first NCAA Tournament game.

"I've played in big environments, big atmospheres before, so I'm ready. We know what's at stake so we're just going to take it every possession at a time."

Wisconsin will face American Thursday at 11:40 a.m. in the second round of the NCAA Tourney.

The environment for opening weekend of the tournament may feel a lot like a home game at the Kohl Center, playing in nearby Milwaukee.

"It feels great. It's really nice being in Milwaukee, having my friends and family be able to come watch me play."

Koenig as a true freshman has played in 32 games while averaging 15 minutes per contest. He admits whatever contribution he can provide off the bench during the tournament could be the difference on how far this Badgers' team advances.

"I think we need to get a lot of production off the bench. The freshmen and the 8-man rotation and everything like that. We have to be more consistent with our scoring and our production."

"He's brought that spark off the bench from another guard spot," said junior forward Frank Kaminsky. "We knew we had a bunch of players in the backcourt with Josh (Gasser) coming back, but we knew we needed someone off the bench. He's really stepped up and provided some energy."

His backcourt mates have been grateful for the immediate impact Koenig has made on this team.

"He's been great. He's been a heck of a talent," said starting point guard Travon Jackson. "A guy that really works hard and just happy for him that he's starting to play really well towards the end of the season."

"Coming in, you saw his talent right away," said Gasser. "And he's grown as a player. He's expanded his game throughout the year and sometimes I don't think he realizes how good he is."