March Madness 2021 begins tonight with the first games on TBS and TruTV — here's how to watch every matchup without cable

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  • March Madness 2021 will begin with the First Four on March 18 at 5:10 p.m. ET. 
  • Games will be spread across CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV through cable and live streaming services.
  • To get access to every channel through a single app, we recommend Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV. 

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Last year’s tournament was canceled for the first time in NCAA history as the COVID-19 outbreak swelled. With the pandemic still looming, Indiana will limit the normally raucous crowds to 25% of their normal capacity. That said, millions will no doubt be watching remotely with baited breath to see which team will capture the first title since Virginia’s 2019 win. 

Wondering how to get your eyeballs on all these high-stakes contests without a cable subscription? Look no further.

Updated on 3/18/2021 by Kevin Webb: This article has been revised with additional details on the 2021 March Madness schedule, including the women’s tournament.

March Madness 2021 dates and times

March Madness 2021 began with Selection Sunday determining the tournament bracket on March 14. The tournament will commence with the First Four on March 18 starting at 5:10 p.m. ET. Below you can find a chart of the key dates and times for 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, as laid out by the official NCAA March Madness website.

For a full breakdown of each game’s specific airing station and time, check out this handy list.

EventCoverage begins Channels
Selection Sunday

6 p.m. ET on March 14

First Four

5:10 p.m. ET on March 18

First round (day one)12:15 p.m. ET on March 19 CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
First round (day two)12:15 p.m. ET on March 20CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
Second round (day one)12 p.m. ET on March 21CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
Second round (day two)12 p.m. ET on March 22CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
Sweet 16 (day one)2 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET on March 27CBS (afternoon), TBS (primetime)
Sweet 16 (day two)1 p.m and 7 p.m. ET on March 28CBS (afternoon), TBS (primetime)
Elite Eight (day one)7 p.m. ET on March 29CBS
Elite Eight (day two)6 p.m. ET on March 30TBS
Final Four5 p.m. ET on April 3 CBS
NCAA Championship Game9 p.m. ET on April 5CBS

The 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will begin on March 21, with the Women’s Final Four planned for April 2, and the Women’s National Championship Game scheduled for April 4. 

How to watch March Madness 2021

The easiest way to watch March Madness 2021 — which you likely have already figured out if you’ve got the credentials — is to use the March Madness Live website or streaming app, and sign in with a supported cable or satellite provider. From there, you can stream every game in the whole enchilada. 

If you’re reading this article, however, you’re probably saying to yourself, “But I don’t have cable. That’s why I’m here.” Right! Well, there are other ways to watch, so fear not. 

Games are being spread across CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV, and there are several streaming services that include one or more of those channels. If you want a single service with access to all four March Madness networks, Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV will be your best bet. Each service costs $65 a month.

If you just want access to some of the channels, we’ve broken additional details on streaming options for each network below.

How to watch the CBS games without cable

As a network station, there are many ways to stream CBS if you don’t already have a cable or satellite package. 

Paramount Plus

One of the cheapest ways to get live CBS streaming access is via Paramount Plus. The service offers some exclusive on-demand content in addition to live streaming for plans starting at just $6 a month. You can find more information about Paramount Plus in our full guide here.

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