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March Madness Goes Virtual With Live VR Streaming

With college basketball tournaments running throughout March until a champion gets crowned next month in Houston, it's easy to feel like you're completely surrounded by hardcourt action. For this week at least, both Fox Sports and NextVR want to make sure that's quite literally the case.

The sports broadcaster is teaming up with the virtual reality content provider to create a live VR telecast of this week's Big East Conference basketball tournament. Strap on a Gear VR headset, fire up the NextVR app and you'll be able to watch the likes of Villanova, Xavier, and other colleges vie for the Big East crown as if you actually had a seat inside Madison Square Garden.

MORE: VR Mega Guide: Features and Release Dates

Fox and NextVR are streaming the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game of the tournament — seven games in all. The VR streaming tips off this Thursday, March 10, at noon ET.

All you'll need to view the action is a Gear VR headset and the NextVR app. There's a dedicated Fox Sports channel within the app where you'll find the games. NextVR recommends watching the live streams over Wi-Fi for a smoother experience.

This isn't the first time Fox Sports and NextVR have been virtual reality teammates for sports broadcasting. The two have brought golf, NASCAR and boxing to VR headsets, but this is the first time a college basketball tournament will be broadcast live in virtual reality.

I had a chance to go hands-on with NextVR's app in the build-up to last month's Super Bowl, where the company was showcasing some footage it had shot during three National Football League games earlier that season. It was an impressively immersive experience — NextVR's cameras were at field level, putting me up close to the action — but it wasn't live. It will be interesting to see how that experience translates to a live sports broadcast when the first tournament quarterfinal gets underway later this week.