2015 NCAA tournament: how to watch online, without cable

The 2015 NCAA tournament has been set, and it's easier than ever to catch the games away from your television. Even without a cable subscription, you can use Sling TV, plus a few free methods, to enjoy nearly all of March Madness. 

Nam Y. Huh/AP/File
Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky (44) drives against Michigan State's Branden Dawson (22) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Big Ten Conference tournament in Chicago. March Madness games are more accessible than ever this year, even for fans without cable.

I'll admit, from November through the first week of March I'm mostly a casual college hoops fan.

When mid-March comes and the NCAA tournament tips off, everything changes. I glue myself in front of a screen and consume an unhealthy dose of collegiate hoops. I cheer the underdogs. I scribble together a bracket. I pick a #15 seed to beat a #2 every year. I tear my bracket to shreds in abhorrence. I learn the names of future NBA stars. I boo Duke. Loudly.

One issue I have - and it's a common one - I'm at work for much of the tourney. That's okay, though, because this is 2015 and TV on the internet is a thing.

How to watch March Madness if you HAVE a cable or dish subscription

This is pretty straightforward and similar to years past. Pay-TV (meaning cable or dish) subscribers can use March Madness Live to steam games on PC and Mac, as well as on Amazon, Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices and tablets via the March Madness Live app.

To log into March Madness Live you'll need your pay-TV subscription credentials. If this isn't something you're familiar with or have written down, call or email your service provider now to make sure you aren't scrambling to reset a password when the games tip off.

And it's worth noting that the app itself is free.

How to watch March Madness WITHOUT a pay-TV subscription

If you're a cord-cutter and don't feel like subscribing to cable for a month of basketball, I don't blame you, and you aren't out of luck.

Here are your options:

1. Pay nothing and stream the games that air on CBS with March Madness Live

March Madness' games are split across four TV networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. CBS is a broadcast network that requires no cable subscription, and because of this you can use March Madness Live to watch all CBS-broadcast games without entering pay-TV credentials.

It hasn't been announced yet, but in past years, the March Madness Live has offered a 4-hour trial period for viewers without pay-TV to watch the TBS, TNT and truTV games. This will definitely get you through one game - possibly two.

This option works if you're okay with missing many of the games in the early rounds. In the later stages of the tournament, the big games will air on CBS, but for the first weekend, you'll miss a lot. The 4-hour trial is nice, but if it leaves you craving more, what's your other option?

2. Use Sling TV to watch the games for $20

Sling TV is a service that lets you watch about two dozen channels on your computer, phone or tablet for $20/month. Sling doesn't feature truTV, but its basic package has TBS and TNT. Sling is owned and operated by Dish Network.

Sling is currently available on PC and Mac; for mobile, it's on iOS and Android phones and tablets. It's not yet available on Chromecast or Apple TV, but it does work on current generation Roku devices.

What's great about Sling TV is there's no contract, so if you only want it for one month, you're free to cancel. Sling also has a 7-day trial currently available, so you've got a week to test drive it.

Disclaimer: Now, there are other options available, but they're pretty sketchy. Several foreign-hosted sites allow you to stream tournament games, but they come with a myriad of issues. Streams are often low quality, pop-ups are everywhere, and the sites just feel spammy. My advice is stay away.

So, which option do I endorse? It really depends on how big a fan you are. Even if you're not a college hoops junkie, $20 to watch (almost) all the games on multiple devices is a good bargain, so I give the edge to Sling TV.

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