Swish List: Where to Watch March Madness in NYC

Jonathan Zeller

New York City may be known as a pro-sports town, but even here, no game consumes a month as fully as college basketball does in March. At bars, every TV screen is tuned in to constant game coverage. At offices, productivity crashes thanks to obsessive scoreboard and pool checking. Meanwhile, in Midtown, Madison Square Garden (MSG) rocks for the Big East tournament—and, yes, though some critics are loath to admit it, the National Invitation Tournament.

Below, we present a comprehensive guide to managing the madness: brief primers on the MSG events, the best bars to watch NCAA games and a peek at local teams you might not have thought to follow.

Where to Watch the Big Dance
Ah, the main event.

It's tough for college b-ball fans to concentrate on work during the first days of the NCAA tournament. So why try? Take a day off and cheer on your team at the seven NYC watering holes listed below.

In the East Village, Standings gets into the collegiate spirit with its March Madness Pizza Gorging Parties. You can stuff your face with free slices—and hope, for the sake of your bracket, that Vermont knocks off Syracuse. Or, if you sympathize with Goliath, join the throng of vociferous Orange supporters in Murray Hill at The Hill. Fans of fellow big dogs Duke and Kansas will feel welcome at The Village Pourhouse, which offers home turf for both schools.

But who can choose just one matchup? Sixty-four first-round teams, after all, adds up to 32 first-round games (one team is eliminated in a single-game "opening round"). If you want to see them all, head to the Upper East Side for Ship of Fools and its 42 TVs.

As you survey your picks and contemplate your plans for March 18 and 19, just be sure to call your chosen venue for details—some bars are not usually open during all tournament hours. And remember that "basketball fever" is not an acceptable reason for medical leave.

Best of the Rest
March 30 and April 1

National Invitation Tournament (NIT), Madison Square Garden
Some naysayers dismiss the nation's oldest postseason college basketball tournament, but real fans know that’s a mistake. There are around 350 Division I college basketball teams, and only 97, slightly more than a quarter, compete in either the NCAA tournament (65) or NIT (32). This means that the NIT field, which generally includes a few regular-season conference champions, is strong—this year, it includes big names like The University of Connecticut, St. John’s University and the University of North Carolina. The history—legends like Reggie Miller and Walt Frazier have starred in this competition—is substantial. Watch the final two rounds at the Garden, and you'll see that the passion is there too. Tickets start at $10; check the Madison Square Garden website for details.