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How to Watch College Basketball 2020: Channels, Streaming, and More

We looked at dozens of TV providers to see which ones were best for watching college basketball.

Best overall

Spectrum TV

Price: $44.99–$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.

Sports channels: CBS, ESPN, FOX Sports, Pac-12 Network, and more

Standout features: Premium channels included in Silver and Gold plans

Best value

Sling TV

Price: $30.00–$45.00/mo.

Sports channels: ESPN, FOX Sports, Pac-12 Network, and more

Standout features: Lotsa free deals and offers

Cheapest

CBS All Access

Price: $5.99–$9.99/mo. (or $59.99–$99.99/yr.)

Sports channels: CBS live coverage

Standout features: CBS Sports Network live coverage

How to watch college basketball 

Pretty much every cable, satellite, and streaming provider carries the channels you’ll need to watch a ton of regular season games and the NCAA tournament in March.

We’re gonna get more specific regarding on the best options for each type of provider, but here’s a sneak peek at our recommendations:

  • Best overall: Spectrum’s TV Silver package ($69.99/mo.)
  • Best cable bundle: Xfinity’s X1 Preferred Double Play with Performance Pro Internet ($89.99/mo.)
  • Best value: Sling TV’s Orange & Blue package ($45.00/mo.)
  • Cheapest: CBS All Access ($5.99/mo.)

What channels do I need to watch college basketball?

If you want to know how to catch every minute of college basketball on live TV, you’re in the right place.

College basketball channels

Which TV channels you need to watch the regular season of men’s college basketball really depend on your favorite team or conference. Most fans, however, will be content with CBS, ESPN, and FOX Sports.

Obviously, ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC, and Notre Dame fans will want ACC Network, Pac-12 Network, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, or NBC, respectively.

Top college basketball conferences

ACC Network (ACCN) offers 150+ live men’s and women’s college basketball games per year. You can stream ACCN through the ESPN app (not ESPN+) using a TV provider login.

Big Ten Network (BTN) has partnered with FOX Sports to stream games using the FOX Sports app. You’ll need a TV provider login to get all the college basketball action, but FOX Sports and BTN are available from pretty much every major TV provider.

Big 12 fans might be surprised to know that you can get a lot of games through XII NOW on ESPN+ for $5.99 per month, which also has a ton of live college basketball from smaller conferences like the Sun Belt Conference.

Pac-12 Network is probably the hardest college sports network to get through a streaming service. It’s only available through Sling TV, fuboTV, and Vidgo. Likewise, unless your local cable provider has it, Cox, DISH, Spectrum, and Xfinity are the only nationwide cable providers that carry Pac-12 Network.

SEC Network has partnered with ESPN to stream college basketball games on the ESPN app (again, not ESPN+). Of course, you’ll need a TV provider login to watch those games using the ESPN app.

Freebie fans can get a decent amount of free college basketball games on CBS, FOX, NBC, and, if you’re lucky, some regional sports networks with an HD antenna.

Wanna catch every minute of college basketball?

Enter your zip code to see which TV providers have CBS, ESPN, FOX Sports, and more in your area.

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NCAA Tournament channels

You need only four channels to catch every moment of the Big Dance—CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV. If you’re interested in replays, you might also want CBS Sports Network (but you don’t need it). Almost every cable, satellite, and streaming TV service carries all five of these channels.

The two most important channels, though, are CBS and TBS. Both show a ton of tournament action every year, and the two networks alternate years as the exclusive broadcasters of the Final Four and NCAA Championship games. TBS gets the even years. CBS has the odd ones.

Besides these channels, you can also catch every live game plus highlights and replays with the NCAA March Madness Live app by logging in with your cable, satellite, or streaming service credentials. We’ll give you the deets on this later on.

Best TV providers for college basketball

Price range
CBS
CBS Sports Network
ESPN
FOX Sports
TBS
TNT
truTV
Best overall
Spectrum
Xfinity Cox DISH Optimum DIRECTV RCN AT&T TV
$44.99–$89.99/mo.§ $49.99–$84.99/mo.§§ $25.00–$69.99/mo.‡‡ $59.99–$94.99/mo.˚ $64.99–$119.99/mo.• $59.99–$134.99–.¶ $59.99–$64.99/mo.** $59.99–$134.99/mo.††

Get Spectrum Get Xfinity Get Cox Get DISH Get Optimum Get DIRECTV Get RCN Get AT&T TV

Data as of 10/14/20. Channel availability may vary by plan. Plan availability may vary by location and is subject to change.
§ For the first 12 mos.
˚ For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
• For 24 months. Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Price for Life available on select plans. Customer must remain in good standing an up to date on bill payments to remain on Price for Life.
¶ For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
** For the first 12 mos.
†† for 12 mos. Plus taxes.
‡‡ For the first 12 mos.
§ For the first 12 mos.

Among cable and satellite providers, we recommend Spectrum’s TV Silver package ($69.99 a month). It has 175+ channels, including all five tournament channels and the premium channels HBO®, SHOWTIME®, and NFL Network. Other cable and satellite providers have similarly priced plans with more total channels—but not those juicy premiums.

If you’re looking to bundle, Xfinity’s X1 Preferred Double Play with Performance Pro Internet ($89.99 a month) gives you 220+ channels, including the five tournament channels, and internet speeds up to 200 Mbps.

But, again, you can find all the channels you need for the NCAA Tournament with almost all of the cable and satellite TV providers we researched for this piece. Here’s what they all offer in terms of TV packages and bundle-able services.

See what cable TV providers are available in your area.

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NCAA March Madness Live app

If you already have cable, satellite, or streaming TV service, you can use your login credentials (from most providers) to watch every game on the NCAA March Madness Live app.

If you don’t have TV service, you can still take advantage of the app’s free three-hour preview. That’s enough to watch at least one game for nothin’.

We should mention, though, that the app’s reviews on the Google Play Store weren’t so stellar last year—lots of one-star complaints popped up due to technical difficulties. So you might want to avoid it unless you want a peek at the action while you’re on-the-go. The rest of the time, stick with your provider.

Best streaming services for college basketball

Price
CBS
CBS Sports Network
ESPN
FOX Sports
TBS
TNT
truTV
Best value
Sling TV
Cheapest
CBS All Access
fuboTV AT&T TV NOW YouTube TV Hulu + Live TV
$30.00–$45.00/mo. $5.99–$9.99/mo. or $59.99–$99.99/yr. $54.99–$74.99/mo.‡ $65.00–$135.00/mo. $64.99/mo. $54.99–$60.99/mo.

Get Sling TV Get CBS All Access Get fubotv Get AT&T TV NOW Get YoutubeTV Get Hulu

Channel availability may vary by plan. Plan availability may vary by location and is subject to change.
Some providers require an OTA antenna to receive local channels.
† Premium add-on ($15/mo.)
‡ For the first three months ($79.99 thereafter)

Sling TV is one of our top picks for streaming sports because you get tons of pro and college action in the affordable base packages, along with reasonably priced sports add-on packs that yield tons more sportsball channels.

We also think Sling TV is the best value for tournament games. You can get TBS, TNT, and truTV in Sling’s Orange & Blue plan ($45.00 a month). That’ll cover you for most of the NCAA Tournament in even years.

In odd years, you’ll need an OTA antenna for CBS to watch the Final Four and the NCAA Championship game. (And, again, you don’t really need CBS Sports Network unless you want to watch tournament reruns.)

We also really like fuboTV’s Ultra package ($74.99 a month‡). It has 168+ channels with tons of sports, including all five of our tournament channels. The plan also includes nine SHOWTIME® channels, 500 hours of cloud DVR space, and three streams.

A really cheap way to watch some of the tournament is to sign up for CBS All Access (starting at $5.99 a month). It’ll have all of the live CBS games plus the replays from CBS Sports Network.

In the next section, we’ll tell you how to watch college basketball for free—or close to it.

Best streaming devices

Are you a newbie cord-cutter and wondering what’s the deal with these “streaming devices” we keep bringing up? We’ve broken it all down for you with CableTV.com’s guide to the best streaming devices.

How to watch college basketball for free

Are you strapped for cash? We have a few ways to watch college basketball without paying one red cent (to TV providers, anyway).

Streaming free trials

With careful planning and discipline, you could watch a lot of college basketball from November 25 through the NCAA Championship Game by signing up for free seven-day trials on various streaming services. Just don’t forget to cancel before the trial expires, or that’ll totally blow up the free-ness.

OTA antennas

Over-the-air (OTA) TV antennas like the Mohu Leaf give you a bunch of free channels, including your local network affiliates like CBS, FOX, and NBC (and even some regional sports networks), for a one-time payment of as little as $25.

We highly recommend an HD antenna if you can get good reception at your house and you’re a casual college basketball fan.

It’s pretty easy to find every channel you need for the college basketball regular season and the NCAA Tournament with almost any cable, satellite, and streaming TV provider.

Cable provider Spectrum’s affordable packages include a ton of college basketball channels, plus premium channels.

Streaming provider Sling TV has excellent prices, lots of sports channels, and sweet deals for new customers.

You can also watch a lot of college basketball for free by signing up for free streaming trials or using an OTA antenna to get CBS, FOX, and NBC.

But which way to watch all that college-level slamma-jamma is best? That’s for you to decide. Set your pick and roll with it.

How to watch college basketball FAQ

Can I watch March Madness for free? 

You can watch March Madness for free. Here’s what you do: Sign up for a free (typically seven-day) trial offered by streaming TV services like AT&T TV NOW, CBS All Access, fuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. When that one’s done, cancel it—then sign up for another (rinse, repeat). Three or four trials will carry you through the entire Big Dance.

Another idea, which is close enough to free, is using an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna like the Mohu Leaf. These devices run as cheap as $25 and are ridiculously easy to install. You’ll get a ton of free local channels, including CBS—one of the main March Madness broadcasters.

Can I watch the NCAA tournament on Hulu? 

You can watch the NCAA tournament on CBS if you subscribe to Hulu + Live TV (starts at $54.99 a month).

Is there an app to watch March Madness? 

Yes, the NCAA March Madness Live app has every single game plus replays. After a free three-hour preview, you’ll need to log in with your credentials from a cable, satellite, or streaming TV provider.

Can I stream the NCAA tournament? 

Yes, you can stream the NCAA tournament by subscribing to streaming TV services such as AT&T TV NOW, CBS All Access, fuboTV, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Another way would be to use your existing login credentials from a cable, satellite, or streaming TV provider to log in to the NCAA March Madness Live app.

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