After the first ever March Madness cancellation, it's a huge relief to welcome college basketball back - though naturally the 2020/21 season promises to be a bit different to previous years. Read on as we explain how to watch an NCAA college basketball live stream - whatever your school and whatever their conference, this is where you'll be able to glimpse the NBA stars of tomorrow.
For the first time ever, there are no defending champions for the 2020/21 NCAA basketball season. College hoops was one of the first victims of the coronavirus on the sporting calendar this year, but now we can settle in again and tune into the on-court thrills and spills again - with well over 300 teams in contention.
The 2020/21 NCAA college basketball season tipped off on November 25 and will conclude with the NCAA Championships, aka March Madness, which reach their climax on Monday, April 5. Teams can play up to 27 regular-season games, but Covid-19 means everything is subject to change. Whatever happens, using a good VPN (opens in new tab) will let you tune into your school from anywhere.
A couple more things to know about: the minimum number of games each team has to play in order to qualify for March Madness and the season-ending NCAA championships has been heavily reduced to 13, and teams can play up to 27 regular-season games, including a minimum of four non-conference games.
On the men’s side, this can comprise 24 regular-season games plus one multi-team event up to three games, OR 25 regular-season games and one multi-team event up to two games, OR 25 regular-season games and no multi-team events. On the women's side, teams can play 23 regular-season games and one multi-team event up to four games, OR 25 regular-season games and no multi-team events.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are early favorites in the men's competition, while on the women's side it's hard to look past the South Carolina Gamecocks - but with the circumstances what they are, just about anything could genuinely happen. Except for a first national champion from the Ivy League ranks, of course, as the conference has opted-out of the 2020/21 season.
Ivy League having canceled all winter sports because of Covid-19 concerns. But whoever you're rooting for, if your team's playing, our guide explains how to watch an NCAA college basketball live stream this season.
- Related: how to get a college football live stream
How to watch NCAA college basketball in the US
If you plan on watching the 2020/21 NCAA college basketball season, then you’ll need either a cable package or streaming service that gives you access to ESPN, CBS, CBS Sports Network, TBS, TNT, TruTV and FS1 to catch all the big national games.
Regional sports networks such as Fox Sports Networks and Stadium also broadcast college ball, but their coverage is typically limited to games within their particular part of the country.
How to watch NCAA college basketball on TV
So the most important thing is to make sure that your cable package has the network which will show games from your school's conference.
For instance, CBS will show games from the AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC conferences while its offshoot, CBS Sports Network, will show games from the A10, Big East, Mac, Mountain West, NEC and Patriot League conferences.
However, ESPN networks (which includes ESPN and ESPNU) holds the rights to broadcast games from basically every conference, so you’ll want to make sure that the cable package or streaming service you choose has ESPN.
Additionally, some conferences have their own networks such as how the ACC conference has the ACC Network, the Big Ten conference has the Big Ten Network and how the Pac-12 conference has the Pac-12 Network.
While this can certainly get confusing, as long as you have access to ESPN, CBS, CBS Sports Network, TBS, TNT, TruTV and FS1, you’ll be able to watch most of the biggest college basketball games that will be played this season.
With that in mind, here are some of the top options to consider if you're looking for a cost-effective way to watch college hoops this year.
How to watch NCAA basketball without cable
Unfortunately, no single streaming service offers all of these channels - but you can get darn close.
Most fans will want to choose between one of two providers Sling TV and Fubo.
Here's how their offerings break down.
- Sling TV (opens in new tab) $45+ per month - Sling TV gives you access to regional sports networks, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1, SEC Network and the ACC Network with the optional sports package add-on. However, the service does not include local channels or CBS. While you could opt for either the Sling Orange or Sling Blue package, the combined Orange & Blue package is potentially your best bet for watching college basketball this season.
- fuboTV (opens in new tab) $59.99 +per month - fuboTV gives you access to local channels, regional sports networks, Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports 1 and the Pac-12 Network but does not include ESPN. That's a blow for big national games, but it's a better option for local coverage and therefore fans of smaller schools that might not get selected for primetime.
While these are our favorites, there's plenty more OTT options that you might want to consider, depending on your viewing needs and budget.
- ESPN+ (opens in new tab) $5.99 per month - ESPN+ will live stream select college basketball games (and loads of other sport!) throughout the season.
- AT&T TV (opens in new tab) Now starting at $50 per month - AT&T’s streaming service includes local channels, regional sports networks, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 and the SEC Network.
- Hulu with Live TV (opens in new tab) $54.99 per month - Hulu with Live TV gives you access to local channels, regional sports networks, Big Ten Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network.
- YouTube TV (opens in new tab) $65 per month - YouTube TV includes local channels, regional sports networks, ACC Network, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 and SEC Network.
How to live stream college basketball from outside your country
If you're currently abroad or there's no official broadcast option in your country, then you’ll need to use a VPN to dial in to a location in the US that does have coverage.
A VPN is perfect for this as it allows you to change your IP address so you appear to be in a completely different location. They're surprisingly easy to use, too! We’ve tested hundreds of VPNs and can heartily recommend ExpressVPN as the best one right now.
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We've put all the major VPNs through their paces and we rate ExpressVPN as our top pick, thanks to its speed, ease of use and strong security features. It's also compatible with just about any streaming device out there, including Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox and PlayStation, as well as Android and Apple mobiles.
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How to watch NCAA college basketball: live stream 2020/21 games in Canada
Unfortunately, ESPN Player isn’t available in the Great White North, but if you want to follow college basketball on television this season, TSN (opens in new tab) is the home of NCAA basketball in Canada and has you covered for the 2020/21 season.
The TSN Direct (opens in new tab) streaming service costs just CA$4.99 a day or (much better value) $19.99 a month and can be purchased by anyone, regardless of whether you have the channel as part of a pay TV package - though existing subscribers should note they can log in to live streams at no extra charge with details of their provider. There's also an app for convenient on-the-go streaming.
Canadians abroad right now can use a VPN (opens in new tab) to virtually sling back to Canada and stream the coverage they normally would at home - from anywhere in the world.
NCAA college basketball live stream: how to watch online in the UK
Hoops fans based in the UK can watch the 2020/21 college basketball action using ESPN Player, the network giant's international streaming-only service.
It costs £9.99 a month and offers a FREE 7-day trial (opens in new tab), so you can watch the next round of on-court action without paying a penny.
However, if you’re already a BT Sport (opens in new tab) subscriber and prefer to watch basketball on your television, the broadcaster will be showing college basketball games again this season through its partnership with ESPN.
How to watch an NCAA college basketball live stream worldwide with ESPN Player
In some countries, you may be baffled by the fact that college basketball is just as popular as the NBA among some fans. But if you want to know what all the fuss is about or you're a US expat wanting to catch the college basketball, then ESPN Player (opens in new tab) has you covered in other countries around the world.
It's available in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia and comes at a cost of £9.99/€11.99 for the next month (or £69.99/€79.99 for a whole year).
That gets you live and on-demand coverage of most college basketball games in the 2020-21 season as well as access to other live sports events, ESPN originals and ESPN Films on-demand. The service also supports both desktop and mobile, so you’ll never miss a game.
- More sports action: how to watch an NFL live stream