Cord Cutters Guide to March Madness

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College basketball fans rejoice because the road to crowning champions of the 2020–21 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball season begins on Sunday, March 14, 2021. Get your brackets ready because it’s time for the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, also known as NCAA March Madness. This year’s single-elimination tournaments will be the first one held during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic due to being canceled last year for the first time in history for the women’s and since 1939 for the men’s. 

What’s Different This Year

Since there are concerns about spreading the virus, viewers will notice changes in this year’s tournaments. Social distancing, masks, and testing requirements will be in place at each arena with attendance up to 25 percent capacity for the men’s tournament and 17 percent for the women’s tournament. 

For the first time in history, each tournament will take place in a single state. There will be a men’s bubble in Indiana and a women’s bubble in Texas. Most of the men’s tournament will take place in six different venues across Indianapolis and surrounding areas. The men’s tournament will take place at Mackey Arena, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium. 

The women’s tournament will take place mostly in San Antonio with a few games played in Austin and San Marcos. The five venues that will house the women’s tournament include the Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena, Frank Erwin Center, University Events Center, and the UTSA Convocation Center.

The  NCAA has a backup plan to ensure that things can go without error during this year’s 68-team tournament. Once the tournament has started, teams with a COVID-19 issue that can no longer compete will no longer participate and their opponent will advance to the next round via the no-contest rule. 

The tournament’s goal is to have at least one team from every conference represented and teams will not be reseeded after the bracket is released. If teams that are automatic qualifiers (AQ) and cannot play due to health and safety protocols, replacement teams must be announced via each conference’s replacement policy before the beginning of the tournament. If the AQ is from a single-bid conference, the replacement team will replace its conference member in the same place on the bracket. If the AQ is from a multi-bid conference, the replacement team will be chosen from one of the last four at-large teams.

Schedule of March Madness Events

From the Selection Shows to the National Championship, March Madness is going to be insanely packed with a full schedule of NCAA action. Due to the uncertainty surrounded by COVID protocols, below are the men’s and women’s tournaments tentative schedules.

Men’s Tournament Schedule

Round Time and Date Channel Location
Selection Sunday Starts at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 14 CBS N/A
First Four Starts at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 18 truTV, & TBS Mackey Arena, and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
First round (Round of 64) Starts at 12 p.m. ET on Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20  TBS, CBS, TNT, & truTV Mackey Arena, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium
Second round (Round of 32) Starts at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 21, and Monday, March 22 TBS, CBS, TNT, & truTV Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium
Sweet 16 Starts at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 27, and 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 28 CBS (afternoon games), TBS (primetime games) Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Hinkle Fieldhouse
Elite Eight Starts at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, March 29, and 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 30 CBS (Monday) and TBS (Tuesday) Lucas Oil Stadium
Final Four Starts at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 3 CBS Lucas Oil Stadium
National Championship Game Starts at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, April 5 CBS Lucas Oil Stadium

Women’s Tournament Schedule

Round Date and Time Channel Location
Selection Show Starts at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, March 15 ESPN, & ESPNU N/A
First Round (Round of 64) Starts at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22 ABC (Sunday only), ESPN, ESPN2, & ESPNU Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena, Frank Erwin Center, University Events Center, UTSA Convocation Center
Second Round (Round of 32) Starts at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 23, and 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 24 ESPN (Tuesday only), ESPN2, & ESPNU Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena, and UTSA Convocation Center
Sweet 16 Starts at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 27, and Sunday, March 28 ABC, ESPN, & ESPN2 (Saturday only), Alamodome
Elite Eight Starts at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, March 29, and Tuesday, March 30 ESPN Alamodome
Women’s Final Four Starts at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, April 2 ESPN Alamodome
Women’s National Championship Game Starts at 6 p.m ET on Sunday, April 4 ESPN Alamodome

How to Watch Every March Madness game

Participating teams and bracket seeding will be announced on both tournament’s Selection Show. Cord cutters can find out how to watch each Selection Show and all of the games in this year’s tournaments.

March Madness Live: By using your subscription TV login credentials you can gain unlimited access to every live game from their phone, tablet, PC, or any device with March Madness Live.

Locast: Viewers in one of the 29 markets served by Locast will also be able to watch on their local CBS and ABC stations for free with the service.

Cord cutters can watch every single moment of each game of March Madness with Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, or any compatible devices by subscribing to any one of these live TV streaming services.

  • fuboTV has CBS, ABC, ESPN,  and ESPN2 covered with the fuboTV Family plan for $65/month.
    • ESPNU is available on fubo Extra for an additional $7.99/mo.
  • Hulu with Live also carries CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU for $65/month.
  • AT&T TV includes CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU in its Choice package for $65/month.
  • Sling TV includes TBS, TNT, truTV, ESPN, and ESPN2  for only $50/mo with Sling Blue + Orange.
    • Add ESPNU for only $11/mo with Sports Extra.
  • YouTube TV includes CBS TBS, TNT, truTV, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU with a $65/month subscription.
  • Vidgo offers ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU for only $55/mo.
  • Paramount+ is the home of all of CBS networks content for only $6/month

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