Setting Up a Home Theater System for March Madness

How To Properly Celebrate March Madness

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

March Madness Returns!

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

For 2017, team selections will be made on Sunday, March 12th, with the first round match-ups beginning play on Tuesday, March 14th and continuing through the rest of March (See March Madness Dates and Venues).

Final Four and Championship play will be held on April 1st and 3rd in Phoenix, Arizona.

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). For questions regarding Cable or Satellite, contact your local cable provider or satellite provider.

Watching the Games

If you want to get the best possible picture, an HDTV is your best viewing option. If you already have an HDTV, then you are all set, provided your HDTV has either an ATSC tuner, which is required for receiving over-the-air high definition television broadcast signals, or that you subscribe to HD-Cable or HD-Satellite service.

Also, make sure your cable and satellite service will provide access to the channels broadcasting any March Madness games in high definition.

If you don't own an HDTV and want to buy one in time for March Madness (especially the Final Four), an LCD (or LED/LCD) flat panel set is the only affordable option available as Plasma TVs are no longer being made (but you might be able find one used)

For some large screen HDTV buying suggestions, check out my periodically updated listing of LCD and LED/LCD TVs 40-inches and Larger.

Another TV buying option available for consumers (and sports fans) available now is 4K. Although March Madness will not be broadcast in 4K (yet), a 4K Ultra HD TV may bring new viewing excitement as these new LED/LCD 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. Check out my running list of available 4K Ultra HD TVs.

In addition, another type of TV that is available are OLED TVs. These sets are very expensive in relation to their screen size. A few offer a unique curved screen design and all provide blow-your-socks off image quality with impressive black levels and color saturation (most are also 4K sets).

However, be wary of Curved Screen TVs - They do look great, but keep in mind that if you have a large group, the people sitting off to sides may not have complete view of all the action. Other than that curved screen, there aren't any additional benefits - read my article Curved Screen TVs - What You Need To Know.

Hearing The Tournament Matches

To get the best sound experience for March Madness there are several ways to go, depending on your setup.

  • If you are planning to receive March Madness games using an over-the-air antenna, which is connected to an HDTV with an ATSC tuner, then check to see if your HDTV has a Digital Optical Audio Output Connection. Also, if have a surround sound system in your home theater setup, check to see if the receiver in your system also has a corresponding Digital Optical Audio Input connection. If so, then simply connect the digital audio output of the HDTV to the digital audio input of the home theater system and you will experience the surround sound feed for March Madness.
  • If your HDTV 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 HDTV's analog stereo outputs (may be RCA connections or a 3.5mmm 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 you 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 Connection 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 HDTV. 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 HDTV.
  • If you access your TV signal via Antenna, or without a cable box, 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 HDTV, consider purchasing an all-in-one home theater system, sound bar, or under TV audio system. To find out more about these options, read: Home Theater Easy and Inexpensive. Then, check out some affordable all-in-one home theater packages or sound bars that may provide the perfect option for hearing those March Madness crowds: Top Picks For Home Theater-in-a-Box Systems - Top Picks for Sound Bars.

Lastly, if you are starting completely from scratch, and need to purchase and set up an HDTV and home theater system in time for March Madness, be sure to check out my article: Home Theater on a Budget.

Streaming and Radio

In addition to traditional broadcast, cable, and satellite outlets, when your not at home you may be able to take advantage of the streaming options that are available for iPad/iPhone, Android, and Windows 8 and 10 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.

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