Smarten up March Madness with this colorful IFTTT trick

With the right IFTTT recipe, you can sync your smart lighting up with your favorite team's Cinderella run. Here's how.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
5 min read

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If you've bought into color-changing smart lights, then you're going to want to put the things to use -- and there's no better time than March. With 68 teams set to battle it out for college basketball supremacy, there's a good chance you'll be cheering for someone, and what better way to show off your support than by lighting up the living room with the school colors?

It's simple enough to pull out your phone and change the color of the lights when your team takes the court, but for maximum style points, why not automate the entire process? It's possible with an assist from IFTTT. With the right lights, you can even dial into your school's specific shade. Here's how it's done:

A nIFTTTy color-changing trick for March Madness (pictures)

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First, you'll obviously need an IFTTT-compatible color-changing smart LED. Philips Hue bulbs are the most high-profile, and as you'll see in just a bit, they also offer the the most precise controls for our purposes. The Wi-Fi-enabled Lifx bulb will work too, as will the Orbnext desktop decoration.

Next, you'll need to activate your light's channel on IFTTT. If you're unfamiliar, IFTTT is a free online service that links up social networks, web tools, and smart gadgets using "if-this-then-that" style automations. You can create a free account at IFTTT's website, or on your iOS or Android device.

With IFTTT, you can let ESPN trigger lighting changes. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Philips Hue, Lifx and Orbnext all have their own "channels" on IFTTT. When you activate those channels, you're approving IFTTT to trigger the lights using whatever triggers you tell it to use in your recipes.

For this recipe, that trigger will be any new tip-off from your favorite team. Create a new recipe in IFTTT, and select ESPN as the trigger -- the "if this" part of the recipe. There are a couple of different options in ESPN's channel -- we want "New game start." IFTTT will ask you to pick a league and a team: select "Men's College Basketball," and then pick your team from the drop-down list. I'm going with the University of Dayton Flyers.

In the Lifx channel, just select your bulb and pick from a list of preset colors. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Now for the action -- the "then that" part of the recipe. In this recipe, that'd be your smart bulb. Select it from the list of channels, then tell it to change to your team's color. If you have multiple bulbs, you could create different recipes for each one and tell them to turn different colors -- green and yellow if you're an Oregon fan, for instance.

Once you picked your bulb and told it what color you want it to change to, you're all set. Confirm the recipe, and let IFTTT take it from there -- next time your team starts a game, your smart bulbs will fire up accordingly.

With the Philips Hue IFTTT channel, you can select your shade's exact hex code -- that's the code for a University of Dayton-specific shade of blue. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

If you're using Philips Hue bulbs, you can take things one step further, because the Philips Hue IFTTT channel has a cool feature that the Lifx and Orbnext channels don't. That's the ability to change your bulb not just to a specific color, but to an ultra-specific shade of a specific color.

You'll do that by using that shade's hexadecimal code, which is a six-digit string of alpha-numeric figures used by programmers, designers, and Web developers who need to get really specific about color. With hex codes, you can split the hairs that separate adjacent shades on the Philips Hue palette. Schools certainly do -- just look at the dozens of different shades of "blue" used in collegiate branding.

Most colleges and universities will list the hex codes for their school colors somewhere online in order to keep branding consistent. Websites like this one also list suggested hex codes -- but to make it even easier for you, I've listed the codes for all 68 teams in the NCAA field at the bottom of this article.

Some schools might use colors that shine a little better than others. White and grey are pretty boring, and black is obviously a non-starter (sorry, Providence). But for the most part, you shouldn't have any trouble dialing into shades that fall right in line with your school spirit.


1) Kentucky -- Blue (#003399), White (#FFFFFF)
16) Hampton -- Reflex Blue (#0067AC), White (#FFFFFF) / Manhattan -- Kelly Green (#528C39), White (#FFFFFF)

8) Cincinnati -- Red (#FFFFFF), Black (#000000)
9) Purdue -- Black (#000000), Old Gold (#B89D29)

5) West Virginia -- Blue (#003366), Old Gold (#FFC600)
12) Buffalo -- Royal Blue (#0068B4), White (#FFFFFF)

4) Maryland -- Red (#D5002B), White (#FFFFFF)
13) Valparaiso -- Brown (#794500), Gold (#FFD204)

6) Butler -- Butler Blue (#0D1361), White (#FFFFFF)
11) Texas -- Burnt Orange (#EE7524), White (#FFFFFF)

3) Notre Dame -- Notre Dame Blue (#002B5B), Gold (#BAA008)
14) Northeastern -- Black (#1A1100), Red (#CC0001)

7) Wichita State -- Black (#101008), Yellow (#F8D429)
10) Indiana -- Crimson (#A82B3D), Cream (#FFFFCC)

2) Kansas -- Blue (#006AB5), Crimson (#E51837)
15) New Mexico State -- Crimson (#891216), White (#FFFFFF)


1) Wisconsin -- Black (#000000), Badger Red (#A00000)
16) Coastal Carolina -- Teal (#009297), Bronze (#D59C3A)

8) Oregon -- Green (#044520), Yellow (#F4E600)
9) Oklahoma State -- Orange (#FF6500), Black (#000000)

5) Arkansas -- Cardinal Red (#CD1041), White (#FFFFFF)
12) Wofford -- Black (#000000), Gold (#FFD700)

4) North Carolina -- Carolina Blue (#98BFE5), White (#FFFFFF)
13) Harvard -- Crimson (#C41130), White (#FFFFFF)

6) Xavier -- Navy Blue (#002144), Grey (#B0B1B6)
11) Brigham Young -- BYU Blue (#002D62), White (#FFFFFF) / Mississippi -- Yale Blue (#002C91), Crimson (#FF002C)

3) Baylor -- Green (#008649), Gold (#FFC227)
14) Georgia State -- Blue (#005DAA), White (#FFFFFF)

7) Virginia Commonwealth -- Black (#000000), Gold (#F8B800)
10) Ohio State -- Scarlet (#DE3121), Grey (#C5CCCF)

2) Arizona -- Cardinal Red (#BB003A), Navy Blue (#003559)
15) Texas Southern -- Maroon (#6A0403), Grey (#B0B1B6)


1) Villanova -- Blue (#123D7C), White (#FFFFFF)
16) Lafayette -- Maroon (#9A0024), White (#FFFFFF)

8) North Carolina State -- Red (#EF1216), White (#FFFFFF)
9) Louisiana State -- Purple (#33297B), Gold (#FDB827)

5) Northern Iowa -- Purple (#473282), Gold (#E4AE2F)
12) Wyoming -- Brown (#533B22), Gold (#FFAF1E)

4) Louisville -- Black (#070707), Cardinal Red (#FD0B20)
13) UC Irvine -- Blue (#002B5C), Gold (#FBC22D)

6) Providence -- Silver (#C4C4C4), White (#FFFFFF)
11) Boise State -- Blue (#2D4492), Orange (#F27E34) / Dayton -- Columbia Blue (#151A66), Red (#E70808)

3) Oklahoma -- Crimson (#BA0034), Cream (#FFFFCC)
14) Albany -- Purple (#3D2777), Gold (#FCBB0D)

7) Michigan State -- Green (#1C453A), White (#FFFFFF)
10) Georgia -- Black (#000000), Red (#A0000B)

2) Virginia -- Navy Blue (#00204E), Orange (#EA4B0F)
15) Belmont -- Navy Blue (#2A3F76), Red (#E82645)


1) Duke -- Duke Blue (#004C7D), White (#FFFFFF)
16) North Florida -- Grey (#9F9E9D), Blue (#0A548D) / Robert Morris -- Blue (#00214D), Red (#AF1C2E)

8) San Diego State -- Black (#231F20), Scarlet (#BF2C37)
9) St. John's -- Red (#D31145), White (#D31145)

5) Utah -- Crimson (#CD1041), White (#FFFFFF)
12) Stephen F. Austin -- Purple (#393996), Red (#EE3A42)

4) Georgetown -- Blue (#49487C), Grey (#AC928A)
13) Eastern Washington -- Red (#D72E34), White (#FFFFFF)

6) Southern Methodist -- Red (#E32F38), White (#FFFFFF)
11) UCLA -- UCLA Blue (#005C8E), UCLA Gold (#FFB325)

3) Iowa State -- Cardinal Red (#840A2C), Gold (#FEC938)
14) University of Alabama Birmingham -- Green (#054338), Gold (#E7BD05)

7) Iowa -- Black (#000000), Gold (#FFD700)
10) Davidson -- Black (#000000), Red (#E51937)

2) Gonzaga -- Blue (#2D2161), Red (#DC272A)
15) North Dakota State -- Green (#01402A), Yellow (#FEBB1C)