Setting Up Your TV and Home Theater System for March Madness

How to properly celebrate March Madness at home

March Madness basketball game, 2014
Joe Robbins/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

March Madness isn't an official holiday, but it might as well be for dedicated Basketball fans. March Madness is the name given to the almost month-long NCAA Basketball Championship culminating in the Final Four match-ups.

For 2019, team selections will be made on Sunday, March 17th, with the first round match-ups beginning play on Tuesday, March 19th and continuing through the rest of March (See March Madness Dates and Venues). Final Four and Championship play will be held on April 6th and 8th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

March Madness On TV

CBS will carry the team selection process and the final four, with the rest of the tournament televised by CBS and several cable outlets (TBS, TNT, TRU TV).

Canadian viewers will be able to catch March Madness on TSN. Broadcasts will also be available in other select countries via ESPN International (check the ESPN schedule servicing your country or region).
All broadcasts from the above outlets will be in 1080i or 720p resolution. However, DirecTV will be providing some matches in 4K with HDR.

For 2019, DirecTV will be providing up to 13 March Madness Basketball matches in 4K and HDR. This includes select matches from the following: 

  • First Four – March 19 and March 20 in Dayton, OH
  • First/Second Rounds – March 22 and March 24 in Tulsa, OK
  • Regionals – March 28 and March 30 in Anaheim, CA

Check their 4K schedule closer to the event dates.

Couples Watching Basketball on TV
Dmytro Aksonov, Getty Images, Collection E+, 624570626

Receiving the Tournament Matches

Make sure your antenna, cable, or satellite box is functioning properly and that you will be able to receive the channel in your area broadcasting March Madness matches.

If you intend to receive any March Madness games via an antenna and need to get one, check out our Lifewire picks.

If you subscribe to cable or satellite make sure you will be able to access the channels providing any March Madness games in high definition. Contact your local service provider if you have questions.

Channel Master METROtenna 40
Channel Master

How to Get The Best Picture

To get a great picture, you need at least an HDTV. If you already have an HDTV, you are all set. If you don't own an HDTV and want to buy one in time for March Madness (especially for the Final Four), LED/LCD TVs are the most affordable type available, but OLED TVs are another, more expensive choice.

Plasma TVs are no longer being made, but you might be able to find one used.

You might consider getting a 4K Ultra HD TV. Although March Madness will not be broadcast in 4K via antenna or cable, if you have access to DirecTV's 4K service, that is a nice bonus.

For those receiving the games via antenna or HD cable, an Ultra HD TV will upscale standard HD broadcasts, providing more perceived detail, especially if viewing on a set that is 55-inches or larger, and you are sitting relatively close to the screen. 4K Ultra HD TVs are available with both LED/LCD and OLED technology, but keep in mind that OLED TVs are more expensive than comparably sized LED/LCD TVs.

Be wary of Curved Screen TVs. They look stylish but if you have a large group, viewers sitting to the sides may not have a complete view of all the action. Also, they are very susceptible to light reflections – if you have lamps or other light sources that shine towards the screen, you might want to shut them off. Other than the attractiveness of a curved screen, such TVs don't offer any substantial benefits over other TVs,

How To Get The Best Sound

To get the best sound or March Madness there are several ways to go.

  • If you are using an antenna, check to see if your TV has audio outputs (either analog or digital optical) for connection to an external audio system. If so, and you have a sound bar or home theater receiver that has those connection options, you can connect your TV and get better sound.
  • If using the analog connection option, check to see if your home theater system has a Dolby Prologic II/IIx or DTS Neo:6 setting option. If so, then you'll be able to extract a surround sound signal from the stereo input signal. Although not as effective as surround sound from a digital optical audio connection it provides wide, room-filling sound.
  • Another audio connection available on many TVs, home theater receivers, and soundbars is HDMI-ARC (Audio Return Channel). If your TV, soundbar, and receiver offer this feature you can connect the HDMI output of the soundbar or home theater receiver to the ARC-labeled HDMI input on the TV. The TV will send the audio signal through the HDMI cable back to the home theater receiver without the need to make a separate audio cable connection between the TV and home theater receiver
    TV Audio Output Connection Options
    TV Audio Output Connection Options. Photo by Robert Silva for Lifewire
    • If you subscribe to HD-Cable or HD-Satellite, check your box for a digital optical audio output connection. If available, the box to the digital audio input of your home theater system to access surround sound from the high definition cable or satellite feed.
    • If your HD-Cable box or HD-Satellite Box has an HDMI output, consider connecting the HDMI output from the Cable or Satellite box to your home theater receiver and then connect the output of your home theater receiver to your TV. You will be able to access both audio and video using HDMI from the cable or satellite box to the home theater receiver, and then to the TV.
    Home Theater Receiver HDMI Connections Example
    Onkyo USA

    What To Do If You Don't Have An External Sound System

    If you don't have a home theater system to complement your TV, consider purchasing an all-in-one home theater system, soundbar, or under TV audio system.

    If you are starting completely from scratch, and need to purchase and set up a TV and home theater system in time for March Madness, check out some useful TV and home theater buying tips.

    Streaming and Radio

    In addition to broadcast, cable, and satellite, whether at home or on the go, you may be able to take advantage of streaming options available for iPad/iPhone, Android, Windows 8/10 PCs and Laptops, Amazon, Roku, Xbox, or your Smart TV. For more details, including app downloads, check out our companion article: How To Watch March Madness Online.

    Man Watching Basketball via Streaming on Tablet
    Getty images, istock, grinvalds, 938423322

    There are also radio listening options you can take advantage of.

    Enjoy your March Madness TV viewing or Radio/Streaming experience! May your favorite team win.