Setting up Your TV and Home Theater System for March Madness

How to properly celebrate March Madness at home

March Madness isn't an official holiday, but 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 2020, the first round match-ups are tentatively scheduled to begin play on Tuesday, March 17th and continuing through the rest of March (See March Madness 2020 Dates and Venues). Final Four and Championship play will be held on April 4th and 6th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

March Madness Basketball Game, 2014
Joe Robbins/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

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.

For 2020, DirecTV is expected to provide several March Madness Basketball matches in 4K and HDR. Check their 4K schedule closer to the event dates.

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

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.

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

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

Receiving the Tournament Matches on TV

For TV viewing, make sure your antenna, cable, or satellite box is functioning properly so 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 TV 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 won't 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 are sitting relatively close to the screen.

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. They are also very susceptible to light reflections – if you have lamps or other light sources that shine towards the screen, shut them off. Other than the attractiveness of a curved screen, such TVs don't offer substantial benefits over flat TVs.

How to Get the Best Sound

To get the best sound for March Madness, consider an external audio system. This can be a soundbar, soundbase, or a multi-speaker home theater system.

Whether you receive the games via antenna, cable box, or media streamer connected to your TV, check your TV for one of three output connections: HDMI-ARC, Digital Optical, and/or Stereo Analog.

HDMI-ARC 

If your TV and external audio system have all three connection options above, HDMI-ARC is the most convenient. The TV uses the same HDMI cable connection you get video from your system to the TV and outputs sound from sources connected to the TV back out to the audio system.

Digital Optical

If your TV and audio system don't have HDMI-ARC, the next best option is to connect the digital optical output from the TV to your external sound system. 

Both HDMI-ARC and Digital Optical support surround sound if the TV or source connected to the TV is receiving a surround sound signal and the TV supports transferring surround sound through those connection options to an external audio system.

Stereo Analog Audio

If your TV doesn't have either HDMI-ARC or Digital optical output options but has an analog stereo audio output that is your only option.

If using a home theater audio system, check to see if it has a Dolby Prologic II/IIx or DTS Neo:6 setting option. This will allow the extraction of surround sound from the stereo input signal. Although not as effective as surround sound from a digital optical or HDMI-ARC audio connection it provides wide, room-filling sound.

TV Audio Output Connection Options
TV Audio Output Connection Options. Photo by Robert Silva for Lifewire

Additional Connection Options for Cable/Satellite/Media Streamers

If you have cable/satellite box or media streamer, you also have the option of connecting HDMI, Digital Optical, or Analog stereo audio outputs those devices may have to your external audio system directly and make a separate connection to the TV for video. 

Home Theater Receiver HDMI Connections Example
Onkyo USA

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