March 17, 2011— -- So many games, so little time.
For the next two-and-a-half weeks, it will be brackets galore for NCAA basketball fans, as 68 teams go head-to-head in dozens of March Madness matchups.
With all those games, many taking place during work and school hours, keeping up with the action will be no small feat. But thanks to a bumper crop of Web and smartphone apps, college hoops fans will have no trouble live streaming games to their phones, figuring out the hottest games to watch, getting tune-in alerts and more.
If you're looking for the best ways to follow the madness this month, take a look at 10 of the top apps below.
No TVs at work? No problem.
With the official March Madness application, you can live stream every single game to your iPhone or iPad, for free. Just download the app to your device of choice and you can keep an eye on the games, without your boss ever being any the wiser. (Sure, you could watch the game on your computer, but the smaller screens might help you keep a lower profile.)
Since the app works over WiFi and 3G networks, with a solid enough connection you could even tune in on your train ride home. It can also send you game time, halftime and overtime alerts for your favorite teams.
And, if you're watching from the comfort of your couch, just tell the app your zip code and TV provider and it can help you figure out which channel to turn to.
Android users won't get to take part in the live-streaming action, but they can still keep up in real-time with the free March Madness Fan Zone app.
Available for select Android phones and Apple products, the app combines real-time scores, news and rankings with social media conversations. As users read about the progress of their favorite teams, they can chat about the games with friends through Facebook, Twitter and SMS.
If your problem isn't finding a way to watch the games, but figuring out which ones to watch, check out Are You Watching This?! (RUWT?!)
The service (which is available on the Web and as a free iPhone app) watches every game, on every channel, in every sport, and alerts users when the action heats up.
RUWT?! relies on the subjective commentary of "super fans" and the objective data of algorithms -- that analyze each game according to game play, historical information about the sport and players, and other factors -- to determine which games are "instant classics." When it spots a hot game among your favorite teams and/or sports, it sends you a message.
You can choose whether you want e-mail messages or text messages (or both), and you can select the frequency with which you want to receive the messages. The alerts let you know the game's score, time left and the channel you need to watch.
Just in time for this year's March Madness, the folks behind RUWT?! launched another sports-related website, I Can't Find the Game.
The dead-simple site is a gift from the gods for sports fans who need help figuring out which channels to turn to for their favorite games.
Just enter your zip code and choose your cable/satellite provider, and the site tells you the channel you need to watch.
Another great service for sports fans who don't want to miss those watercooler moments, Thuuz lets you know when the most exciting games will be on TV.
Available as a dedicated website and as an embeddable widget, Thuuz ranks every game on a scale from 0 to 100, based on play-by-play data and other information. If you sign up for real-time text and e-mail alerts, you get a message when a game really kicks into high gear.
If you want an at-a-glance view of your favorite teams' progress, FanFeedr is for you.
The real-time, personalized sports feed is available on the Web and as an iPhone and iPad app and supplies an up-to-date, customized stream of scores, headlines and tweets.
Just tell the service the sports, teams, players or news sources you like best, and it delivers the information as fast as it can. If you use the iPhone or iPad apps, you can adjust the settings to get scores in real-time through text message-like push notifications.
Google geeks are apparently basketball fans too. This week, the tech giant launched a dedicated page about all things NCAA.
The Google College Basketball Tournament page includes a map of every school competing in the 2011 NCAA Championships, along with a 3D and Street View option for each campus. For those who like to debate whether home court advantages are for real, Google has supplied a "Distance Tool" that calculates how far each team has to travel to compete.
The page also includes a full schedule of the matchups, the latest March Madness headlines and virtual tours of the venues.
A must-have app for the sports fanatic, ESPN's ScoreCenter puts scores, news and standings from hundreds of leagues around the world into your pocket.
NCAA fans can create personalized scoreboards and get live details from their favorite games, including the last play, in-game stats and game summaries.
The free app for Apple products and Android phones also provides analysis from ESPN's editorial staff and up-to-date video clips.
ESPN Bracket Bound
If you're all about the bracket this time of year, ESPN's Bracket Bound is all about you.
The free app for Apple and Android products lets users fill out up to 10 brackets with their ESPN.com accounts and then follow the leader board to compare their progress with the best entries on the site. You can also measure your performance against private and public groups of friends and family.
The app also includes video highlights, analysis from experts and interviews with NCAA players and coaches.
If you're willing to spend $4.99, you get bracket advice from top ESPN experts, as well as premium alerts on the information that affects your bracket.
Another helpful app for diehard bracketologists, PocketBracket aims to replace those ubiquitous paper handouts.
For 99 cents, the Apple- and Android-friendly app lets you create or join an unlimited number of brackets and then it tracks results, stats and games.
It also automatically updates the brackets after each game and ranks each participant on the PocketBracket Network.