The Ultimate March Madness Viewing Party Guide (Slideshow)

Have the best possible NCAA tournament with these handy party ideas
The Ultimate March Madness Viewing Party Guide
iStock

Throwing the ultimate March Madness party requires planning, plenty of your favorite tailgating dishes, and a cozy viewing area with as many TV screens as there are games. So fill out your bracket, grab an ice-cold brew, and get ready to have the best March Madness ever!

The Ultimate March Madness Viewing Party Guide

The Ultimate March Madness Viewing Party Guide
iStock

Throwing the ultimate March Madness party requires planning, plenty of your favorite tailgating dishes, and a cozy viewing area with as many TV screens as there are games. So fill out your bracket, grab an ice-cold brew, and get ready to have the best March Madness ever!

Set a Specific Party Date and Time

March Madness extends from March 14 to April 3 this year and runs (nearly) every day at the beginning of the tournament. You don’t want to be hosting your friends for days and days, so pick a specific party date and time. There’s no right or wrong time to throw a March Madness viewing party, as long as basketball is on TV.

Put Together the Perfect Guest List

Put Together the Perfect Guest List
iStock

For your March Madness soirée, be sure to invite people who are the same level of basketball fanatic as you. You don’t want to be schooled on statistics and back-stories all night, but you don’t want to be teaching someone the rules all evening either.

Send Out Party Invitations

Send Out Party Invitations
Shutterstock

We recommend you keep things simple with your party invitations and send out a simple event invite via Facebook or email. If you want to really take your party to the next level, send out paper invitations complete with basketball decorations and paper versions of a March Madness bracket for your guests to fill out.

Start a Bracket Pool

Start a Bracket Pool
iStock

You can’t even begin to think of a March Madness party without a bracket competition. Either by going online or printing off ballots, wager a friendly bet between your friends to see who can correctly guess the outcomes of the most games. Whoever wins at the end of the tournament gets bragging rights (and maybe some cash).

Create a Baller Playlist

Create a Baller Playlist
iStock

Curate a playlist of your favorite pump-up jams or basketball-themed songs for the spare moments between games (or when the commentary just gets to be too much). May we recommend some of our favorite cheesy basketball songs — such as the Space Jam theme by Quad City DJ’s, Aaron Carter’s “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” or Jamie Foxx’s “Winner.”

Decorate

Decorate
iStock

We’re not saying that you need to brand all of your bread with your favorite team logo, but decorations can help to take any party from OK to spectacular. You can either theme your party around your favorite college b-ball team or alma mater with its colors and mascot or go with a generic NCAA basketball theme with orange and black décor.

Have Multiple Screens

Have Multiple Screens
iStock

The entire point of a March Madness viewing party is to watch a ton of basketball, so be sure to have several screens running at once. If your TV has the capability, use the screen-within-a-screen feature. If not, set up a few laptops with games streaming online so your home can feel just like a sports bar.

Record Some Games

Record Some Games
iStock

During the peak madness of the NCAA tournament, there can be up to four games on TV at once, and you’re not going to be able to catch each and every one of them live. If you’re dedicated to watching every matchup, don’t forget to set your DVR for a few games to watch during lags in the action later at your party.

Make Your Viewing Area Extra Comfy

Make Your Viewing Area Extra Comfy
iStock

Make your living room the coziest place on the block so your friends can enjoy the game in total comfort. Pull in extra chairs from other rooms in your home, pile on the blankets and throw pillows, and point everything toward the TV.

Dress Up

Dress Up
iStock

Dressing on theme is a fun and simple way to get really into your party, so don’t be afraid to do it. Wear your college sports apparel, be it from your favorite participating team or your alma mater. If you really want to get into theme dressing, throw on a referee’s jersey and whistle and call out any party fouls you see.

Stock a Cooler Full of Beer

Stock a Cooler Full of Beer
iStock

Watching any sports game pretty much requires an ice-cold beer. Stock your cooler with some classic American favorites (Bud Light, Coors Light, etc.) and keep the cooler out of your fridge and away from the rest of the buffet. You want your friends to grab a brew whenever they see fit.

Serve Sporty Cocktails

Serve Sporty Cocktails
Shutterstock

Sports drinks and energy drinks may not be the healthiest beverages in the world, but for the sake of March Madness, use these as mixers. While we don’t recommend drinking a lot of these cocktails, they can be fun in moderation.

Don’t Forget Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Don’t Forget Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Shutterstock

Not everyone at your party will want to drink alcohol, so be sure to have a few non-alcoholic mocktails for them in addition to your everyday sodas, water, and juice. We suggest making this boldly colored vanilla grape mocktail, a fruity banana orange drink, or some sparkling apple cider.

Make Hearty, Tailgate-Style Appetizers

Make Hearty, Tailgate-Style Appetizers
Shutterstock

Certain foods and sports just go hand in hand, so channel the tailgating experience with some bold and meaty appetizers. We suggest favorite standbys such as Texas chili, 7-layer dips, pulled pork, and Buffalo chicken wings.

Break Out the Grill

Break Out the Grill
iStock

Grilling in the spring is a delight to embrace. In addition to serving standbys like hot dogs, burgers, and bratwurst, feel free to get creative with grilled fish tacos, chicken skewers, or barbecue shrimp.

Serve Concession Stand Sides

Serve Concession Stand Sides
Shutterstock

Make your home into a concession stand by cooking up some classic standbys — but don’t charge your friends. Serve up some boiled peanuts, soft pretzels, and of course French fries to recall good times spent at the stadium.

Make a Cheese Ball

Make a Cheese Ball
iStock

You need a few spherical menu items to tap into your basketball-themed March Madness party, and what better way to honor b-ball than with a bright orange cheese ball? Blue, Cheddar, and Neufchâtel cheeses combine to make this appetizer cheese ball our favorite.

Pop Some Popcorn

Pop Some Popcorn
shutterstock

You can’t watch anything without some popcorn. Whether you decide to pop a few microwavable bags, make a savory popcorn mix, or mix up popcorn with some chocolate for a sweet and salty treat, make sure you have some for optimal March Madness viewing.

Don’t Forget Dessert

Whether you dip cake pops in orange-colored white chocolate and drizzle them with milk chocolate lines or simply draw basketball lines on fresh oranges, have some sweet basketball-themed treats for your guests.

Set Up a Big Buffet

Set Up a Big Buffet
iStock

Keep all of your food situated in one central area for your viewing party. Take all of your concession stand snacks, grilled items, appetizers, and desserts and line them up at a long buffet table. Don’t forget the paper plates and silverware!

Have a Game Room

Have a Game Room
Shutterstock

Having a separate area for kids to burn off energy — or for uninterested party guests to gather so they don’t interrupt the big game — can really make or break your party. Set up a few board games and a few indoor basketball hoops.

Host Your Own March Madness Competition

If you happen to have a basketball hoop in your yard, play a few rounds of HORSE or one-on-one to burn off excess energy (and all that indulgent food). You can even create a mini-bracket with your friends and crown your own ultimate basketball champion.

Hold Basketball Trivia

Hold Basketball Trivia
Shutterstock

If the basketball games aren’t enough competition for you, host your own version of bar trivia with NCAA-related questions. Asking something like “Who is the all-time leading NCAA Division I scorer?” is sure to separate the real basketball fans from the fakers.

Place a Basketball Hoop Over Your Trash Can

Want to make clean up really fun and easy? Have your guests do it themselves by placing a small basketball hoop over your trash can. Having your friends pick up their own soda cans will now be almost a game. Just don’t let them know it was your master plan all along.

Take Turns With Friends

Take Turns With Friends
iStock

Because March Madness lasts for the better part of a month, you can’t be expected to host every single game night. Have your friends host a night or two of the NCAA tournament and be sure to be as good of a guest as you are a host.