Michael Furlong ‘15 and the Kansas State Uni­versity men’s bas­ketball team sit in the locker room after the team’s loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats. (Photo: Michael Furlong / Courtesy)

Hillsdale alum Michael Furlong ‘15 took spring break travel to a whole new level last week as he helped prepare the  Kansas State University’s men’s bas­ketball team for the opening round of the NCAA tour­nament, where they fell to the Cincinnati Bearcats on March 17.

Furlong spent four years playing men’s bas­ketball at Hillsdale, rising to team captain and Teammate of the Year before grad­u­ating in 2015. After grad­u­ation, Furlong became assistant graduate coach for the men’s bas­ketball team at Kansas State Uni­versity, where he is pur­suing his master’s degree in aca­demic advising.

In Furlong’s first year, the Wildcats made it to the NCAA cham­pi­onship tour­nament.

“It was just a roller coaster of a season,” Furlong said of Kansas State’s 21 – 14 year, which sent the No. 11 Wildcats to the first round of the NCAA cham­pi­onships against No. 6 seeded Cincinnati. 

“We found out we were facing Wake Forest on Tuesday, and flew the team to Dayton for that game, then we won that game and had to fly the team to Sacra­mento for our game with Cincinnati,” Furlong said. 

Furlong said every night coaches were up until at least 2:30 in the morning preparing for the next day’s practice and com­pe­tition. The team spent the day trav­eling, sleeping when they could, prac­ticing, and com­peting. 

“The cham­pi­onship just had incredible energy,” Furlong said. “It was amazing how many people showed up for the prac­tices alone.” 

The energy was com­pa­rable, he said, to the energy he felt during his freshman year when Hillsdale’s men’s bas­ketball team com­peted in the NCAA Division II tour­nament. Furlong said this year’s team was encouraged by the number of fans attending prac­tices, people requesting auto­graphs, and members of the press asking the players ques­tions. 

The Wildcats’ season came to an end in the 75 – 61 Cincinnati game, but head coach Bruce Weber remained pos­itive about next year’s prospects. 

“For the young guys, it was a great expe­rience,” Weber told media after the game. “I told them after, ‘You got a taste of it. Now you want more. You’ve got to get better.’” 

For senior Wildcat forward Wesley Iwundu, the game came down to three fouls that benched him with 6:56 left in the first half.

“I def­i­nitely feel like those three fouls affected the game,” Iwundu told media. “I couldn’t help the team in the first half when they went on that run. The refs saw some things I didn’t see and didn’t agree with but it is what it is. Cincinnati was the better team today, and they came out with the win.”

Furlong said that if he had the oppor­tunity to do things dif­fer­ently he would have liked to avoid playing Wake Forest earlier in the same week as the cham­pi­onship tour­nament, because, by the end of the week, coaches and players alike were exhausted. However, with one NCAA cham­pi­onship game behind him, he said he would be better pre­pared to handle a cham­pi­onship tour­nament week next year.