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March Madness 2021 begins this Thursday—here's how to watch every game without cable

You don't need cable to enjoy this year's games

March Madness imprinted on a basketball on a basketball court Credit: NCAA

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March Madness is returning for the first time in almost two years, following the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans have waited in anticipation, and now, there are just a few days to go for the competition to begin.

While there will be a few changes this year—namely, that all 67 games will be played in Indiana—there's no doubt that the 2021 tournament will be one for the books. To help you get prepared for the 2021 NCAA Tournament, we're breaking down everything you need to know about March Madness this year, including dates, TV schedules, locations, where to stream, and more.

When is the NCAA tournament? 

NCAA March Madness commences in mid-March and runs through the beginning of April every year. The 2021 NCAA Tournament—which consists of the First Four, Rounds 1 and 2, Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and the National Championship—begins Thursday, March 14. It starts with Selection Sunday, which determines the brackets, and ends with the National Championship game on Monday, April 5.

How to watch March Madness without cable

If you don't have cable, you can opt for a streaming service like FuboTV or Hulu + Live TV, which carry all four channels that March Madness will air on—CBS, TBS, TNT, and, TruTV. Otherwise, you can opt for a Paramount+ subscription to watch a majority of the games. Here are all the streaming services to tune into the 2021 NCAA tournament

Paramount+

Paramount+ is the new subscription streaming service from ViacomCBS that has replaced CBS All Access as of March 4, 2021. Paramount+ offers live CBS streaming, as well as thousands of TV shows and movies from the CBS network, BET, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, and more. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial here (offer ends March 31), or subscribe to the ad-supported version for $5.99 a month. If you'd like uninterrupted streaming, the ad-free version costs $9.99 a month. 

Sign up for Paramount+

SlingTV

SlingTV is our editor-in-chief David Kender's streaming service of choice when it comes to March Madness. He has used the service for years, signing up in March and then canceling after the tournament concludes in April. The blue package, which costs $35 a month, includes TNT, TBS, and TruTV. You can nab the first month for just $25 with the current SlingTV discount, but you won't be able to watch any CBS games. If you have an HD antenna you can get CBS for free, but if you want Sling to cover all four channels including CBS, you need the “Sling + Bonus Locals Bundle.”

Sign up for SlingTV

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FuboTV

FuboTV offers live viewing of over 100 cable channels—including all the channels you’ll need for March Madness—for a fixed monthly cost of $64.99. However, you can sign up for a 7-day free trial of the service and cancel anytime before being charged the flat rate. The FuboTV app can be accessed on compatible devices on Roku devices, AppleTV, iOS, Android, and computer browsers, select Smart TVs, mobile devices, and more.

Sign up for FuboTV

Hulu + Live TV

Hulu + Live TV also offers full access to Hulu's entire streaming library, in addition to 65-plus channels (CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV included) that feature live sports, breaking news, and on-air programming for just $64.99 a month. You can also sign up for a 7-day free trial here. You can watch Hulu Live on devices compatible with Hulu such as Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV sticks, as well as on computer browsers, select Smart TVs, mobile devices, and more.

Sign up for Hulu + Live TV

AT&T TV

AT&T TV offers a variety of packages, which include local access to the major March Madness networks— CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV—along with popular cable news and sports channels, starting at $69.99 a month. You can use the AT&T TV channels web page to see which local channels are available via the package, depending on your location. You can download the AT&T TV app onto many smartphones and tablets, as well as streaming devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, and Chromecast.

Sign up for AT&T TV

YouTube TV

YouTube TV costs $64.99 a month (sign up for a 7-day free trial here) and offers access to up to 85 channels including the four major networks to watch March Madness on, along with popular news and sports networks. It's available on streaming media players including Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku players and TVs, gaming consoles, and more. 

Sign up for YouTube TV

2021 March Madness schedule

Men playing basketball over a court that says
Credit: NCAA

Unlike previous tournaments, regional finals will all take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, rather than in four separate cities.

Here is the NCAA tournament schedule (all times ET):

Selection Sunday: March 14, 6 p.m.

First Four: Thursday, March 18, 4 p.m.

First Round: Friday, March 19, 12 p.m. and Saturday, March 20, 12 p.m.

Second Round: Sunday, March 21, 12 p.m. and Monday, March 22, 12 p.m.

Sweet 16: Saturday, March 27, 2 p.m. and Sunday, March 28, 1 p.m.

Elite Eight: Monday, March 29, 7 p.m. and Tuesday, March 30, 6 p.m.

Final Four: Saturday, April 3, 5 p.m.

NCAA championship game: Monday, April 5, 9 p.m.

What networks are the games on?

Due to the frantic schedule, especially during Rounds 1 and 2, March Madness games take place simultaneously over four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV. You can also log in with your cable provider to watch each game live through the March Madness Live website or streaming app.

Selection Show: 6 p.m. Mar. 14, CBS.

First Four: Coverage begins at 4 p.m. Mar. 18; truTV and TBS.

First Round: Games begin at noon Mar. 19 and Mar. 20; TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV.

Second Round: Games begin at noon Mar. 21 and Mar. 22; TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV.

Sweet 16: Games are at 2 and 7 p.m. Mar. 27, and 1 and 7 p.m. Mar. 28; afternoon games, CBS; evening games, TBS.

Elite Eight: Games begin at 7 p.m. Mar. 29, CBS; games begin at 6 p.m. Mar. 30, TBS.

Final Four: Games begin at 5 p.m. April 3, CBS.

National Championship: 9 p.m. April 5, CBS.

Where is the NCAA tournament?

This year, each NCAA tournament game will be held in Indiana in an effort to create a controlled, COVID-safe environment. A total of six venues located in the greater Indianapolis area will be used.

According to the NCAA's March Madness website, the First Four will take place in Mackey Arena and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, in addition to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium for the first and second rounds. Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse will also be used as Sweet 16 venues, while the Lucas Oil Stadium will serve as the venue for the Elite Eight, Final Four, and National Championship. 

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