Mobile March Madness tips for staying in the game

No sweat! Here are some apps, and more, to help you stay on top of your bracket from the couch, car, or cubicle (don't tell your boss we said that).

March Madness Live
The welcome screen for March Madness Live. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

You've got March Madness fever, and the only solution is more cowbell. Scratch that. The only solution is to harness the awesome power of mobile technology and turn your smartphone and tablet into your personal ball boy.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or someone who fills out your bracket based on which mascot is most likely to eat the other, you can rely on your mobile device to provide non-stop tournament coverage. You can also rely on it to be the most discrete way to watch games, check your bracket, and see what social media has to say while you're stuck at work.

Make it official
Let's start with the source, the one app to rule them all: the official NCAA March Madness Live. The free app is back, along with some updates over last year's model. The tournament bracket has been redesigned with a handy pinch-to-zoom interface, there's an integrated news section, and an even stronger focus on social-media updates.

All of the games are available as live streams through the app, but there are some restrictions. Any game due to broadcast over the air on CBS is open to anyone to watch. (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET.) Games that are scheduled for cable, however, require proof of a paid TV subscription. There is one way to skim around this (sort of). The app gives you a three-hour grace period to watch games before you have to log in, so choose wisely, grasshopper.

ESPN Tournament Challenge
Face off against celebrities with the ESPN app. (Click to enlarge.) Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Post-Selection Sunday
You survived the insanity of Selection Sunday; that means you've been dreaming in brackets and agonizing over your Final Four. You can't stand to be away from your bracket for more than a few minutes, so be sure you have a bracket app on your mobile device. Naturally, March Madness Live has a bracket section, but it's not your only option.

The free ESPN Tournament Challenge app for Android or iOS looks pretty slick and lets you build a bracket group with your buddies, all pretty standard fare. To sweeten the pot, it also lets you compete against celebrity brackets. Last year's celebrities included the likes of Will Smith, Takeo Spikes, and Common. It's a bit like TMZ meets March Madness.

Only the thrillers
With 68 teams scheduled to play throughout the tournament, you're going to have to make some decisions about which games to watch. You could pore over the schedule, or you could just sit back and let the Thuuz app tell you what's worth watching. The free app gives out game ratings on a scale of 1-100. A score of 85 or up means it's a great game. This is updated live, so you can get alerts of impending bracket busters or overtimes. The excitement alert is particularly handy. When a game hits a certain "excitement threshold," you get a notification so you can get your eyes on it in time to catch the best action. It sure beats watching the video replay later.

Sneak March Madness at work
You don't have to be James Bond to discreetly sneak March Madness past the watchful eyes at work. If you already have your phone cued up, it's simple enough to steal a glance at a game or check the score under your desk. Are we encouraging this sort of behavior? No, but if you're going to it anyway, you might as well get away with it. Here are a few ways to get a more complete experience without taking a sick day:

Grab an earful
Local radio stations usually carry the tournament games, so break out your earphones and download the TuneIn app to get access to 100,00 live radio stations. You'll get the play-by-play in a format designed for listening, so there's no awkwardness around holding a phone or tablet on your lap that makes your co-workers wonder why you're constantly looking down at your crotch.

Put up a privacy screen
If you prefer to leave your tablet or smartphone on your desk with impunity, then at least try to hide it with a privacy screen protector. These sheets fit over the display and make it so only people looking head-on can see what's shaking on the device. Anybody looking at it from the side will just see a dark screen, which might raise questions about why you're standing up and yelling at your blank iPad. Just try to keep yourself under control.

Get creative
Last year, a clever college-basketball fan hacked a simple notepad, carving out a niche for his phone to sit. It looked like he was studiously taking notes, but he was actually watching the games stream live. This would work equally well in either a work or school environment.

Whatever method you choose to stay jacked into the tournament, just try not to let your productivity slump too much. You don't want to give yourself away. Have a marvelous mobile March Madness, folks.

 

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