Everything You Need to Know to Watch March Madness in Style

If last year’s numbers are any indication, this year’s March Madness tournament is going to draw a sizable audience. The 2015 NCCA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament drew the highest audience in 22 years, averaging 11.3 million viewers, an increase of 8 percent from 2014, according to Nielsen Fast Nationals. The national championship game between Duke and Wisconsin was the most-watched game in 18 years, drawing 28.3 million viewers, up 33 percent from the previous year. CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV will be broadcasting games from the first round until the Elite Eight, and TBS will carry the Final Four and National Championship.

Do you and your friends plan on tuning into the action? These tech tips will help you get set up and watch in style.

Viewing Screen Options

The best way to watch basketball today is either with a 4K Ultra HD TV or a home theater projector. 4K TVs, which deliver resolution using four times as many pixels as HD TVs, are now available for under $700 for some 55-inch screen models, with screen sizes up to 80 inches or more available for higher prices. A few points to keep in mind:

  • Look for an LCD model, which is comparable to most OLEDs but less expensive
  • Go with a flat screen — it gives you more viewing angles than a curved screen at a third of the price
  • You’ll need HDMI cables to set up your 4K TV; you can buy these online for less than $10
  • Adjust your TVs settings by changing from store demonstration mode to home mode
  • You will also need to choose a language and select whether you are using an antenna or cable/satellite

You can then connect your TV to the Internet via Ethernet or Wi-Fi and upgrade your firmware. After going through these steps, you can adjust your screen to movie mode (sometimes called cinematic mode) for a more accurate picture and refine additional settings such as contrast, brightness and color.

You will also want to adjust your cable or satellite box and your DVD/Blu-ray player. Select 1080i output for your box and choose 16×9 aspect ratio for both boxes and players. For best performance, connect these other components to your TV via an AV receiver.

If you want an even bigger screen, use a home theater projector. Home theater projector screens can be as large as 110 inches or more. Projectors typically cost $1,000 to $2,000, though some models are available for less, while 4K projectors can be significantly more expensive. A few things to keep in mind about a home theater:

  • Home theaters use lamps that need to be periodically replaced for about $200 to $400
  • They also require a darker room than a 4K TV
  • To display a game with your projector, you can connect your projector to your cable or satellite box, to a digital television tuner connected to an antenna, or to a media connector if you’re getting the game on a computer or mobile device

Sound Setup Selections

4K TVs sound best with external speakers, and projectors require them. Your fundamental options are going with surround sound speakers or a sound bar. Either option can be connected to the rest of your entertainment network through your AV receiver.

Surround sound systems combine five or more speakers with one or more subwoofers dedicated to bass. A typical 5.1 setup uses a central speaker, a pair of left and right front speakers, and a pair of left and right surround speakers to the sides of the listener, along with a subwoofer. Some systems add speakers above or behind the listener for enhanced 3D effect, and some use additional subwoofers.

A sound bar uses a single bar or cabinet to house speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers in order to project sound from a central location. Some sound bars add additional speakers or external surround speakers to mimic the effect of surround sound. A cabinet-style sound bar may double as a TV stand.

Surround sound systems work better than sound bars for rooms that are 15×20 feet or larger. They deliver better quality, but they also cost more. Sound bars cost less and perform well in rooms up to 13×12 feet.

Some surround sound and sound bar systems include support for multi-room sound. With multi-room systems, you can deliver sound to as many as 6, 8, 10, 16 or even 32 rooms. You can set all the sound in the house from a central location or adjust different broadcasts for different parts of the house. If you want to watch TV outside, you can even place speakers outdoors.

Making the Most of Mobile Devices

With your viewing and sound systems set up, you’re ready to make the most of your smartphone and mobile device. You can:

  • Download the NCAA’s March Madness Live app to your mobile device and use it to watch any game — or, to broadcast from your smartphone or tablet to your TV or projector
  • Use the ESPN Tournament Challenge app to pick your winning teams, win points and get a chance to win cash

Follow the NCAA March Madness Twitter feed to keep up with the latest live comments as you watch the games.