Missouri senior Matt Lawrence launched the ball high into the Ford Center air, and it floated down with confetti of many colors riding shotgun.
The dominant color was gold.
Missouri, always the home of the Golden Girls and once the home of golden hardware, is a hoops champion again. Mike Anderson, a coach not so long ago unwanted by his alma mater, the University of Tulsa, has brought Mizzou to the Big 12 pinnacle.
The Tigers beat Baylor 73-60 on Saturday night for the conference tournament title, and a school once known for basketball is on top again.
"Four years we have been through all the ups and downs,” said Mizzou senior Leo Lyons. "We have seen this program when it was at its worst.”
Big 12 records of 5-11, 7-9, 6-10. No NCAA Tournament berth. A mid-season coaching removal of Quin Snyder.
"Definitely been a rollercoaster ride,” Lawrence said. "We are about one thing, and that was winning. That reflects our coach.”
True enough. Anderson, in his third year after being hired away from Alabama-Birmingham, has the 28-6 Tigers a trophy and a likely No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"Coach Anderson has been nothing but honest with us, saying he is going to bring a championship to this school,” Lawrence said. "Not many people believed him except those 14 guys in the locker room.”
Now the Big 12 believes, and it’s high time Missouri returned to championship form. This conference needs Mizzou basketball to give Kansas some competition in the North Division.
A history lesson for you young ’uns. In the 20 years of the Big Eight (postseason) Tournament, Missouri won six championships, more than any other school. In the final 21 years of Big Eight basketball, 1977-96, Missouri won eight regular-season championships.