COLUMBIA — A crowd of 100 to 200 people — and even a dog — welcomed the Tigers home Sunday at the Mizzou Arena from their Elite Eight appearance in Glendale, Ariz.
“I support the Tigers, win or lose,” said Betsy Berry, a fan at the ceremony. “I had them going all the way; I had that much faith in them.”
Although the Tigers fell to the University of Connecticut on Saturday, Sunday's welcome-home crowd was just as proud of the Tigers for what they did accomplish. Most were decked out in black and gold apparel; some even boasted pom-poms, flags, homemade signs and Tiger ears for the kids.
Along with the chatter of the past and current games, music blared from speakers. The crowd joined in with a few “Mizzou-rahs!” of their own as the fight song played.
“This is a great team, and they did a great job,” said Tiger fan Dan Schapira as he waited outside in the sun at the south entrance of Mizzou Arena.
Children were perched on their parents' shoulders. Everyone kept glancing toward the road to see if the bus was arriving. Excitement was in the air with each car that drove up but turned to a disappointed sigh from the crowd when it wasn’t the Tigers' bus.
At about 2 p.m., after much anticipation, the big black bus rolled around the corner, its shiny sides reflecting the crowd, which burst into cheers.
“I lost my throat because I was yelling at the TV so much,” said Phil Grix, an MU junior, adding that he is excited that the “school is a basketball school again.”
With each team member who got off of the bus, the crowd cheered even louder, eventually quieting as the Tigers and coach Mike Anderson approached a small stage, where they spoke about their experience and their gratitude toward fans.
“This is a great sight,” Anderson said, which he followed with a “How 'bout them Tigers?” The reply was a roar of screams from surrounding fans.
Anderson told the crowd he has never been more proud of his team and that he thinks they were only a “couple shots away from going to the Final Four.”
After praising the team, the fans and his coaching staff, Anderson ended with an "M-I-Z!" for the crowd, who responded with a "Z-O-U!"