March Madness 2021 is virtually synonymous with Indianapolis this year, thanks to the NCAA’s unprecedented decision to hold the entire men’s basketball championship in Indiana — with the vast majority of those games playing inside Indy proper.
Indy couldn’t be more excited — but the tournament will not be without its challenges thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A Practical Solution to a Unique Situation
Last year, as fans most likely recall, the pandemic disrupted the end of the college basketball season and ultimately forced the cancellation of the 2020 tournament.
This year, the NCAA has a plan in place that is designed to keep the tournament on track — albeit with some necessary safety modifications. City officials and the tournament’s organizers have worked out a plan to host the entire tournament in a bubble-like format that is designed to protect players and fans alike.
With that in mind, all 68 teams will be hosted in Indy proper, and the vast majority of the players will stay in hotels that are closely connected to the Indiana Convention Center. The Center will also double as a practice facility for the teams. The NCAA will also partner with a local health provider to handle COVID-19 testing for the players, coaches, staff, officials and others associated with the event.
Because of the precautions, teams will be hosted only on dedicated hotel floors and only a limited number of family members and fans will be allowed to watch the games in person to abide by social distancing protocols.
The vast majority of the games will be held inside Indy proper at Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. A handful of games will take place at Purdue’s Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Indiana’s Assembly Hall in Bloomington. The Final Four will be held back in Indy once more at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What’s the 2021 March Madness Schedule?
Bearing in mind that dates may be somewhat flexible (as the need arises), Selection Sunday kicks off on March 14. The remainder of the schedule looks like this:
- First Four — Thursday, March 18, 4 p.m. start time
- First round — Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20, 12 p.m. start time
- Second round — Sunday, March 21, and Monday, March 22, 12 p.m. start time
- Sweet 16 — Saturday, March 27, 2 p.m. start, and Sunday, March 28, 1 p.m. start
- Elite Eight — Monday, March 29, 7 p.m. start, and Tuesday, March 30, 6 p.m. start
- Final Four — Saturday, April 3, 5 p.m. start
- NCAA championship game — Monday, April 5, 9 p.m. start
Since actual event seating is exceptionally limited, CBS Sports and Turner Sports will show all 67 games on both their broadcast stations and digital platforms.
Here’s the basic breakdown of where you can tune-in for these spectacular shows:
- Turner Sports — 43 game telecasts across three networks (TBS, TNT and truTV)
- TBS — 20 games including the Elite Eight, Sweet 16 and the First Four
- CBS —24 games including the National Championship, Final Four, Elite Eight and Sweet 16
- TNT —12 games including first and second matchups;
- truTV —11 games, including the First Four and the first and second rounds.
So grab your calendar, circle the dates and stock up on the popcorn and your favorite snacks for an excellent viewing time right in the comfort of your own home.
Where Can You Go Watch March Madness in Indy With a Group?
If you don’t want to stay at home during the entirety of March Madness (and aren’t among the lucky few to secure a spot at one of the games), you still have options!
Indy is not closing Broad Ripple Avenue or Massachusetts Avenue this year, which means that there will be plenty of seats in area restaurants and sports bars for the taking. Some of the favorite local hot spots for viewing include:
- Kilroy’s Downtown
- Ale Emporium
- Average Joe’s Sports Pub
How Can You Watch March Madness on TV and Mobile Devices without Cable?
If you’re a cord-cutter like so many others, you’re probably wondering whether you’ll have to miss out on some or all of the action. Fortunately, there are many options for tuning into the games even if you don’t have a standard cable TV subscription.
As you can see in the schedule above, many of the biggest games including the Final Four and National Championship will be hosted on CBS, so if you have an over-the-air antennae, you’re covered for those. The Turner networks, including TBS, TNT and truTV, can be viewed using a number of TV streaming services, including Sling, AT&T TV, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, FuboTV and more. While Sling may be the cheapest option at the time of this publishing, it’s not a bad idea to shop around as some of these services may be offering special promotions tied to March Madness. When choosing a streaming provider, be sure to check for compatibility with your preferred streaming devices.
There’s also the March Madness Live app, which puts all the action in one convenient place. Just be aware that you’ll still need credentials from a cable or TV streaming provider in order to log in, though the CBS games will be available on mobile devices even if you don’t have these credentials.
No matter how you choose to watch March Madness this year, stay safe and have fun!