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How to watch the 2021 NCAA Tournament via free live online stream

The NCAA Tournament has arrived. Here’s how to watch the whole thing via live online stream.

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A crane assists the installation of a banner at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis as the city prepared to host the 2021 NCAA Division I basketball tournament on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NCAA Tournament tipped off Thursday evening with the First Four, but the main course gets going on Friday. The first round normally runs on Thursday and Friday, but it was moved to Friday and Saturday due to COVID-19 protocols. Regardless, the First Four appetizer is behind us and it’s on to the main course — arguably the best two days of sports viewing on the calendar year.

The first two rounds of the tournament run Friday through Monday and will air across four channels. We’ll see games across CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV, with a regular rotation between the channels. If you don’t have multiple TVs, it will require some channel surfing, but the inclusion of score bugs at the top of the screen will make it easy to know which games are getting interesting.

However, there will also be a host of options for watching the tournament via live stream. The most basic way to live stream the tournament is through the NCAA’s March Madness Live page. It will stream every game on all four channels.

There will also be streaming options for each of the four television channels. They require cable log-ins, but if you have those, you can live stream through Paramount+, TBS, TNT, and truTV. You’ll notice the websites for TBS, TNT, and truTV are similarly formatted. All three are owned by Turner.

If you don’t have a cable login to access those stations for a live stream, you can get a free trial from YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, AT&T TV Now, FuboTV, or Sling TV to stream the games.

I don’t know what the advantage would be in using those sites over March Madness Live. Stream latency can be a thing with some streams ahead of others. If you’re on Twitter, that can be a problem where you see things described on Twitter before seeing the game action. You can check all of them during the game to see if the cable streams are faster or slower than March Madness Live.