The pageantry that is "Memphis Madness" was on display as University of Memphis Tigers basketball fans packed the FedExForum – again – on Friday (Oct. 18). With the pyrotechnics and special performances, the atmosphere was more like that of a circus or a carnival, rather than a basketball game.
The Memphis cheerleaders (all-girl, co-ed, and pom) started the festivities with a spirited performance showcasing some acrobatics and new age dance routines. And as the arena went dark, the song "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons was fittingly chosen to blare from the speakers.
With the refrain, "Welcome to the new age", the new basketball court was revealed. The silhouette of the "M" bridge and the Memphis skyline was on one side and the new American Athletic Conference logos on the other.
After that, the crowd got its first special performance of the night. Survivor lead singer, Jimi Jamison, appeared singing the ever-popular "Eye of the Tiger." The interactive performance for the crowd was fun, as they sang along, but surely a few were disappointed. A rumor had been swirling that the special performance would come from the likes of Justin Timberlake or Drake.
The women's basketball team took its turn in the spotlight next. The girls' names were announced as a few of the players showed off some of their best dance moves. And if everyone thought the men's' schedule was going to be more difficult this year with the transition into the American Athletic Conference, the women might just have them beat.
With teams like UConn, the women's' national champion, and Louisville, national runner-up, now on the schedule, the Lady Tigers have their work cut out for them. Head Coach Melissa McFerrin let the crowd know that the young roster looks to grow as a team and hopefully shake some things up this year.
Another special performance was in store for the True Blue Nation. "America's Got Talent" winner, Illuminate, took the floor to perform an intriguing light show dance routine. Again it was entertaining, but not Justin Timberlake entertaining.
Finally, everyone got what they came for as the Tigers' men basketball team took the court. A few of the guys also showed off their dance moves as their names were announced. Hippolyte Tsafack's rendition of Elvis' hip swing and freshman Austin Nichols' awkward swag were definitely two of the crowd favorites.
Coach Pastner has never looked as tense as he did during the high-flying antics of the dunk contest. However, no one was injured as Shaq Goodwin took the title with a Vince Carter-esque elbow in the rim style dunk.
And to wrap up the night, a 10-minute scrimmage took place where the fans could get a look at some of the new talent. Memphis natives Nichols and Nick King (also a freshman) definitely stood out, as well as, transfers Michael Dixon Jr. (Missouri) and David Pellom (George Washington).
Overall it was an exciting night for the fans and a time when the players could relax. The Tigers start their season Nov. 8th at home against crosstown Christian Brothers University. Memphis will enter the season ranked 13th and looks poised to make a run at an American Athletic championship.