March Madness. The Big Dance. The home of huge upsets by feisty underdogs, dramatic finishes by future NBA stars, and Cinderella stories that are ultimately ended by blue-blood programs with significant athletic advantages. Yes, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is back and you can watch the whole thing online without cable.
Whether your alma mater is a top seed or got bounced in a play-in game (go Shockers!), you’ll want to catch the March Madness action now that it’s back for the first time in two years. It’s easy to forget because the past year felt like it was 20 years long, but the 2020 tournament was one of the first things to get flat-out canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there’s a lot of pent-up hoops energy that needs to be unleashed in this year’s tournament, which takes place entirely in Indiana.
Thankfully, it’s fairly trivial to watch all the games you want without spending an overwhelming amount of money.
If you have a cable login…
Plenty of people have logins for cable providers but don’t necessarily have cable in their home. It just means they have generous parents or friends. If you fall under that category, there’s an easy (if not especially great) way to watch March Madness for free.
If you use Apple, Android, Google TV, Xbox, Fire TV, or Roku devices, you can download an app called March Madness Live. It’s a one-stop shop for legal live streams of most March Madness games. I say “most” because games airing on CBS are not available on this app.
This is a perfectly acceptable option otherwise, though I’ll warn you that the streaming quality is middling and the Google TV interface is laggy. Once you get a stream running, it’s alright, but some of the methods we’ll discuss in the next section will probably give you a better viewing experience overall.
If you don’t…
This is where things get a little complicated, but only a little. It’s not that bad. We promise.
NCAA tournament games are airing on four networks this year: CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV. There are plenty of streaming services that bring subscribers a cable-like live TV experience, but only two of them carry all four networks. If you already subscribe to YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV, congratulations! You’re all set.
For those who don’t have access to any cable streaming service, YouTube and Hulu both have seven-day free trials. That’s not enough to watch the whole tournament, but it’s worth noting. You can also spend $64.99 for a month and then cancel the subscription before it renews, but that’s not a tiny amount of money.
Here’s the good news: You can get the same thing for almost half the price.
Sling TV’s Blue service tier is $35 per month and comes with all of the relevant networks, sans CBS. That’ll get you 75 percent of the way there. To burst past the finish line, sign up for Paramount+, which grants access to streaming your local CBS affiliate. You might already have Paramount+ if you previously subscribed to CBS All Access. But if you don’t, there’s a 30-day free trial right now. Perfect.
Put simply, you can either catch most games with a cable login, catch all of them with one of two $64.99 per month services, or just shell out $35 total for a month of college hoops goodness. Give yourself the gift of hearing “One Shining Moment” this year. You deserve it.