Famed hip-hop artist Rick Ross, who was scheduled to headline the event, had a pair of seizures — and emergency landings — en route to Memphis. He was hospitalized in Birmingham, Ala., around 6:30 p.m and was unfit to perform.
U of M coach Josh Pastner improvised, however, and was able to book Memphis native Yo Gotti, who performed the last two Madness events, as a replacement.
"Everything was AOA today — adapt, overcome and achieve," Pastner said. "That's kind of how it was today and that's what we had to do. You've got to give everyone credit — the staff, the university administration, and the fans."
As expected, fans turned out in droves for the free event. Fans began lining up outside FedExForum as early as 8 a.m.
"If you go on Twitter, you can just tell. It brings the whole city back up," junior forward Ferrakohn Hall said. "You can feel that emotion. Everybody loves Memphis basketball, and I feel like today was one of those good-feeling days, like one of the best days in summertime. It was crazy."
"How do you not want to go to Memphis? That's my thing," Pastner said. "If I was a recruit, and I saw what I saw tonight, with the star-studded judges and a Plan B (of a performer) in Gotti? How can you not want to come to Memphis?"
After the dunk contest, Yo Gotti performed several songs. The night was concluded by a 10-minute scrimmage.
"From the time I got on the bus to the time it ended, it was so exciting," said freshman forward Adonis Thomas. "It was a great experience for me as a freshman. Everybody's just supporting me here. It was a packed house, as usual."
It was also a much-needed night for the U of M, which has to this point offered only a mostly noncompetitive football team. The Tigers return their biggest contributors from last season and are expected to be a preseason Top 15 team.
"The town wants to be a part of something to get excited about and a winning tradition," sophomore guard Will Barton said. "When we come out and put on a show with all our expectations, they really get excited. The town needs that right now. It's all on us right now."