Whether you're a die-hard fan or a casual viewer, watching college basketball games on TV or streaming platforms has never been easier. With a variety of TV packages and streaming options available, you can catch all the action from the comfort of your home. So, gear up, tune in, and get ready for some exciting college basketball games today on tv!
College Basketball: Broadcast Rights and Networks
The broadcast rights for college basketball games are usually held by several networks. Some regional syndicators, like Raycom Sports, syndicate their games to broadcast stations. ESPN Plus
, which was a syndication unit of ESPN, also previously syndicated basketball games from various conferences to stations until its closure in 20146.
In 2014, Sinclair Broadcasting launched a new syndication programming service, the American Sports Network, to syndicate basketball games in various areas of the country, including a few NCAA Division II games7. Regional cable networks also provide extensive coverage to one or two conferences, with the Pac-12 and Big 12 having deals with Fox Sports since 19968.
Several conferences have established their own television networks, such as the Big Ten Network in 2007, the Pac-12 Networks in 2012, and the SEC Network in 20149. In 2019, the ACC launched the ACC Network, replacing the games previously broadcast by Raycom Sports10.
ESPN has been airing regular season games since 1980, with its coverage of college basketball boosting both the sport's and ESPN's credibility. In 2016, Fox partnered with NextVR to live stream four Big East Conference games in virtual reality.
Main Channels for Watching College Basketball
College basketball games are broadcast across many TV networks, with the most popular being CBS Sports, ESPN, and FOX Sports platforms. However, the best channels for college basketball coverage may vary based on your favorite team's schedule. Hence, we recommend visiting your favorite team's official schedule for the most accurate channel listings.
The Men's NCAA Tournament, commonly known as March Madness, is aired on CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV. The Women's competition is broadcast on ESPN networks.
Local Channels and Conference Channels
Local channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC also provide decent NCAA basketball coverage. However, for the most comprehensive coverage, you would want a TV plan that includes your preferred college conference channel and regional sports networks (RSNs). Some of these include:
Regional sports networks include:
- Altitude Sports
- Bally Sports
- MSG Network
- NBC Sports regional networks
- New England Sports Network (NESN)
- ROOT SPORTS
Streaming Major College Basketball Conferences
Several major college basketball conferences can be streamed online. ESPN owns and operates ACC Network (ACCN), offering 150+ live men's and women's college basketball games annually. Similarly, the Big Ten's partnership with CBS Sports, FOX Sports, and NBC Sports offers many streaming options.
Big 12 fans can get many games through Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Pac-12 games, on the other hand, require Pac-12 Network in your TV plan. Lastly, ESPN operates the SEC's dedicated channel, enabling you to stream SEC Network content on the ESPN app.
Best TV Packages for College Basketball
- DIRECTV: Among cable and satellite providers, DIRECTV offers the most comprehensive non-streaming college basketball coverage. While it has expensive plans, its two-year price lock and large channel counts are undeniable. DIRECTV's CHOICE package ($84.99 per month) provides a balanced mix of sports and entertainment channels. However, it does require a two-year contract and the installation of a satellite dish.
- Hulu + Live TV: In the cord-cutting edge, Hulu + Live TV is an excellent option for watching college basketball. Despite a small channel lineup, it carries essential basketball networks like ESPN, FOX Sports 1 (FS1), and CBS Sports Network.
- Sling TV: Sling TV provides a cost-effective alternative to Hulu + Live TV. Its base plans have even fewer channels, but there are more add-ons and deals for new subscribers.
- ESPN+: For a standalone subscription, ESPN+ offers thousands of collegiate basketball games at $10.99 per month. It features coverage from over 25 college conferences, making it a prime location to catch college sports.
Watching College Basketball for Free
An over-the-air (OTA) antenna is one of the easiest ways to get free access to live college basketball games. The antenna will pick up every channel within range, including ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.
Extra: Watching NCAA College Basketball on your Phone
For mobile viewing, the NCAA March Madness Live app allows you to watch every game in the tournament if you have a cable, satellite, or live TV streaming subscription.
A Brief History of College Basketball Broadcasts
The history of broadcasting college basketball games dates back to the experimental era of television. The first televised college basketball game took place on February 28, 1940, when W2XBS broadcasted a doubleheader from Madison Square Garden. The game featured Fordham University against the University of Pittsburgh, followed by New York University playing Georgetown University123.
The popularity of televised college basketball rose dramatically following the "Game of the Century" in 1968, between UCLA and Houston. The game attracted significant television audience and is often cited as a catalyst for the expansion of televised college basketball4.
Today, the college version of basketball garners high television ratings in the United States. Coverage varies, depending on negotiations between the broadcaster and the college basketball conference or team. However, major programs tend to be televised more often than smaller ones, with some traditional rivalry games being broadcast each year. Major match-ups between top-ranked teams or major rivals are often broadcast nationally, making college basketball a prominent feature on many sports networks.