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 for 2018 is now history as the Villanova Wildcats beat the Michigan Wolverines by a score of 79 to 62. Come back to this page in late February or Early March 2019 when our TV and Home Theater Setup Tips will be updated for the 2019 March Madness NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament.

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 2018, team selections will be made on Sunday, March 11th, with the first round match-ups beginning play on Tuesday, March 13th and continuing through the rest of March (See March Madness Dates and Venues). Final Four and Championship play will be held on March 31st and April 2nd in San Antonio, Texas.

March Madness On TV

The entire tournament will be televised via several outlets (CBS, TBS, TNT, TRU TV). Check local listings for updated info. Canadian viewers will also be able to catch March Madness TV coverage on TSN. Broadcasts will also be available in select countries by ESPN International (check the ESPN schedule servicing your country or region). Of course, to see and hear all the March Madness action at home, you need an HDTV and Home Theater System.

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 that is broadcasting March Madness games. If you intend to receive any March Madness games via an antenna and need to get one, check out our Lifewire picks. Also, if you are a cable or satellite subscriber make sure your service will provide access to the channels providing any March Madness games in high definition. For further questions regarding cable or satellite, contact your local service provider.

Watching the Matches

If you want to get the best possible 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), an LCD (or LED/LCD) flat panel set is the most affordable option available as Plasma TVs are no longer being made (but you might be able to find one used).

Another TV buying option to consider is a 4K Ultra HD TV. Although March Madness will not be broadcast in 4K (yet), an Ultra HD TV can deliver new viewing excitement as these sets 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 when compared with equivalent LED/LCD TV screen sizes.

However, be wary of TVs with Curved Screens. They look stylish but keep in mind that if you have a large group, the people sitting off to sides may not have a complete view of all the action. Also, they are very susceptible to light reflections - so if you have lamps or other light sources that shine towards the screen, you might want to shut them off. To put it simply, other than the attractiveness of a curved screen, such TVs don't offer any substantial benefits over their flat cousins.

Hearing The Tournament Matches

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

  • If you are planning to receive March Madness games with an over-the-air antenna, check to see if your TV has a digital optical audio output connection. Also, if you have a surround sound system, check to see if the receiver in your system has a corresponding digital optical audio input connection. If so, then simply connect the digital audio output of the TV to the digital audio input of the home theater system and you will experience the surround sound feed for March Madness.
  • If your TV does not have a digital optical audio output, then check to see if the TV has an analog audio output option. If so, then connect the TV's analog stereo outputs (these may be RCA connections or a 3.5mm connection) to a set of analog audio inputs on your home theater system.
  • If using the analog stereo connection option, check to see if your home theater system a Dolby Prologic II or IIx setting option. If so, then you will still be able to extract a surround sound signal from the stereo input signal, although it is not as effective as the surround sound signal accessed by the digital optical audio connection option.
  • If you subscribe to HD-Cable or HD-Satellite, check your cable or satellite box for a digital optical audio output connection. If one is available, connect it from the box to the digital audio input of your home theater system. You will now be able to access the surround sound signal from the high definition cable or satellite feed.
  • If you have a home theater receiver that has HDMI audio access, and if your HD-Cable box or HD-Satellite Box has an HDMI output, then the best option would be to simply connect the HDMI output from your Cable or Satellite box to your home theater receiver and then connect the output of your home theater receiver to your TV. This simplifies the number of connections; you will be able to access both audio and video using a single connection from the cable or satellite box to the home theater receiver, and then to the TV.
  • If you access your TV signal via antenna, or cable without a box (very rare these days), then check to see if your TV and home theater receiver has a feature called Audio Return Channel (ARC). If so, then all you have to do is connect the HDMI output of the home theater receiver to the ARC-labeled HDMI input on the TV via one high-speed rated HDMI cable and activate the ARC function your TV and home theater receiver. The TV will then 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.

    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.

    Lastly, 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 tips.

    Streaming and Radio

    In addition to traditional broadcast, cable, and satellite outlets, when you're not at home you may be able to take advantage of the streaming options that are available for iPad/iPhone, Android, Windows 8/10 PCs and Laptops, Amazon, Roku, and Xbox devices. For more details, check out March Madness Live, as well as March Madness Mobile Apps.

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