Jazz and Basketball

<p>Jazz and basketball are important American inventions. Many jazz musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, are big basketball fans. Perhaps that's not surprising since the music and the game have so many elements in common.

Both involve structured ensemble playing while featuring solos and improvisation.

Tempo and rhythm are important in jazz and basketball. In listening to live jazz, focusing on the bass and drums is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the music. The bass and drums control the tempo and rhythm of the piece.

Watching a lot of basketball will also make one appreciate the importance of tempo and rhythm. On Saturday at Maples Pavilion, the Cal team went down to another disappointing loss to Stanford. The most obvious factor was the poor shooting performance by the Bears. The three back court players combined to shoot 4-27 from the floor while the whole team shot only 3-16 on threes. Stanford’s ability to dictate the tempo of the game after the first media timeout contributed to Cal losing its rhythm, and – I will argue - missing those shots.

Many people believe teams control tempo with their offense. Often, that is the case. A team like Air Force or Princeton can control the tempo by running deep into the shot clock on their possessions, thereby reducing the number of possessions in the game. A great example of that was a couple of weeks ago, when a shorthanded Michigan team hosted #1 Illinois in Ann Arbor. Michigan spread the floor and ran the shot clock down on virtually every possession. For most of the game, they had Illinois on the ropes. It took a brilliant effort in the last 10 minutes by Dee Brown to save the Illini, who won a 57-51. Anyone who has seen Illinois play knows they want to get out and push the ball up the floor. Michigan simply denied them the opportunity.

Teams also control tempo with their defense. That’s what Stanford did to Cal on Saturday. Trent Johnson switched to a 2-3 zone after the first timeout. He may have had little choice in this because Cal was shredding the Cardinal’s man-to-man defense. David Paris and Rod Benson were notably active and combined for nine of Cal’s first eleven points as the Bears stormed to an 11-2 lead after three and a half minutes.

The zone changed the game. Thereafter Cal struggled to get the same looks inside, and the outside shots wouldn’t fall. Cal became both impatient, and tentative. Stanford’s dribble penetration led to offensive rebounds when Cal’s bigs stepped up to help, and the rebounding problems prevented Cal from running. It became a half court game and the team with the superior point guard, Chris Hernandez, won.

Cal did the same thing to UCLA at Pauley. Unlike Stanford’s, Cal’s decision to play zone was planned. The Bears played man for the first possession, and then switched to a 2-3 zone. The zone dictated the tempo and slowed down UCLA. The young Bruins want to get out and run, but they couldn’t. They had to probe that confusing match up zone and they couldn’t buy a three-pointer. The result was an easy Cal win, 64-51. (The final score makes the game seem closer than it was.)

Another example of controlling tempo was last week’s war between Duke and North Carolina in Durham. Many observers believe that the Tar Heels have the best team in the country, and their transition game is devastating. Duke focused on their transition to defense. Basically, they gave up going to the offensive board. Duke only shot 36% for the game, and they only had 7 offensive rebounds. They got back on defense, they forced 23 Tar Heel turnovers, and they held Carolina to 44% field goal shooting. Duke won, 71-70.

Controlling the tempo will be a key factor in Cal’s game tomorrow night against UCLA. In most of their wins, the Bruins have scored in the 80’s or 90’s. Cal will try and keep them in the 60’s, and to do that by disrupting UCLA’s offensive rhythm.

And, the next time you check out some live jazz, listen to the bass and drums. You might even run into a certain local basketball coach while you’re doing that.

In basketball and jazz, you don’t want to lose the tempo.


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Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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Both involve structured ensemble playing while featuring solos and improvisation.

Tempo and rhythm are important in jazz and basketball. In listening to live jazz, focusing on the bass and drums is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the music. The bass and drums control the tempo and rhythm of the piece.

Watching a lot of basketball will also make one appreciate the importance of tempo and rhythm. On Saturday at Maples Pavilion, the Cal team went down to another disappointing loss to Stanford. The most obvious factor was the poor shooting performance by the Bears. The three back court players combined to shoot 4-27 from the floor while the whole team shot only 3-16 on threes. Stanford’s ability to dictate the tempo of the game after the first media timeout contributed to Cal losing its rhythm, and – I will argue - missing those shots.

Many people believe teams control tempo with their offense. Often, that is the case. A team like Air Force or Princeton can control the tempo by running deep into the shot clock on their possessions, thereby reducing the number of possessions in the game. A great example of that was a couple of weeks ago, when a shorthanded Michigan team hosted #1 Illinois in Ann Arbor. Michigan spread the floor and ran the shot clock down on virtually every possession. For most of the game, they had Illinois on the ropes. It took a brilliant effort in the last 10 minutes by Dee Brown to save the Illini, who won a 57-51. Anyone who has seen Illinois play knows they want to get out and push the ball up the floor. Michigan simply denied them the opportunity.

Teams also control tempo with their defense. That’s what Stanford did to Cal on Saturday. Trent Johnson switched to a 2-3 zone after the first timeout. He may have had little choice in this because Cal was shredding the Cardinal’s man-to-man defense. David Paris and Rod Benson were notably active and combined for nine of Cal’s first eleven points as the Bears stormed to an 11-2 lead after three and a half minutes.

The zone changed the game. Thereafter Cal struggled to get the same looks inside, and the outside shots wouldn’t fall. Cal became both impatient, and tentative. Stanford’s dribble penetration led to offensive rebounds when Cal’s bigs stepped up to help, and the rebounding problems prevented Cal from running. It became a half court game and the team with the superior point guard, Chris Hernandez, won.

Cal did the same thing to UCLA at Pauley. Unlike Stanford’s, Cal’s decision to play zone was planned. The Bears played man for the first possession, and then switched to a 2-3 zone. The zone dictated the tempo and slowed down UCLA. The young Bruins want to get out and run, but they couldn’t. They had to probe that confusing match up zone and they couldn’t buy a three-pointer. The result was an easy Cal win, 64-51. (The final score makes the game seem closer than it was.)

Another example of controlling tempo was last week’s war between Duke and North Carolina in Durham. Many observers believe that the Tar Heels have the best team in the country, and their transition game is devastating. Duke focused on their transition to defense. Basically, they gave up going to the offensive board. Duke only shot 36% for the game, and they only had 7 offensive rebounds. They got back on defense, they forced 23 Tar Heel turnovers, and they held Carolina to 44% field goal shooting. Duke won, 71-70.

Controlling the tempo will be a key factor in Cal’s game tomorrow night against UCLA. In most of their wins, the Bruins have scored in the 80’s or 90’s. Cal will try and keep them in the 60’s, and to do that by disrupting UCLA’s offensive rhythm.

And, the next time you check out some live jazz, listen to the bass and drums. You might even run into a certain local basketball coach while you’re doing that.

In basketball and jazz, you don’t want to lose the tempo.


©Copyright 2005, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this very active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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