Autostraddle March Madness 2024: ‘The Kids Are Alright’ Elite 8

Header: The 6th Annual Autostraddle March Madness 2024

Follow our March Madness content all tournament long and don’t forget to vote for your favs!

Sixty-eight teams started their pursuit of a national championship and now, just two weeks later, only four teams remain: South Carolina, NC State, Iowa, and UCONN. Since I can’t resist the opportunity to talk basketball, let’s recount how each of these teams made their way to the Final Four:

Since defeating North Carolina in the second round, the South Carolina Gamecocks have looked, in a word, human. Their undefeated streak — which now sits at 36 — often obscures the fact that the Gamecocks are a new, young team, unused to competing together on this stage. They’ve allowed big leads to slip away (Indiana) or allowed their opponents to stay in the game (Oregon State), while going away from their game plan (give the ball to Kamilla Cardoso!) and opting to play ISO ball instead. But, in spite of their missteps, the Gamecocks have so much depth and are so damn talented, they find a way to persevere. The team is just two wins away from completing their perfect season and delivering Dawn Staley her third national title.

Standing in South Carolina’s way, however, is a fiery NC State squad. Dominant wins against Stanford and Texas propelled the Wolfpack to their first Final Four since 1998. The team has thrived in the post-season behind the play of their backcourt but junior guard Aziaha James has been particular outstanding. While the Wolfpack will face a strong test against the overall #1 seed, overlook them at your peril: NC State has defied expectations all season, becoming the first team to make the Final Four after being unranked in preseason since Kelsey Plum’s Washington Huskies did in the 2015-16 season.

Last night gave us the national championship rematch that we’ve all been craving since the bracket was announced and, in some ways, it lived up to the hype. Caitlin Clark was at her best — finishing with 41 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds — but those who reduce this game to “Iowa had Caitlin Clark and LSU didn’t” are missing some important context. First, Clark’s supporting cast showed up: Kate Martin and Sydney Affolter balled out last night. But also? Kim Mulkey got flat out outcoached. There didn’t seem to be a game plan to defend Clark and even when it was abundantly clear that whatever their plan was wasn’t working, Mulkey didn’t seem to want to make any adjustments. Poor coaching doomed the Tigers.

In last night’s Elite 8 finale, we got a treat: UCONN’s Paige Bueckers vs. USC’s Juju Watkins. Bueckers was an absolute bucket last night for the Huskies, finishing with 28 points. Her offensive output is even more impressive when you consider that she shared the defensive assignment on Watkins with Nika Muhl. The Huskies guards limited the freshman phenom to 29 points on 9-25 shooting. Ironically, this year’s UCONN squad reminds me of 2018 injury-ridden Notre Dame team that beat the Huskies on their way to a national championship.

As we await tip-off on Friday, we’ve got a little business of our own to take care of: who will be our Final Four in this year’s edition of Autostraddle March Madness? Who’s our UCONN, the veteran March Madness mainstay? Who’s our South Carolina, the dominant force who looks unstoppable? Who’s our Iowa, the compelling character who just won’t be denied? And, lastly, who’s our NC State… the plucky upstart who continues to shock the world?

Let’s find out.

Brainiacs Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Brainiacs - #1 seed Elena Alvarez vs. #3 seed Willow Rosenberg

#1. Elena Alvarez, One Day at a Time vs. #3. Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

From the moment the bracket dropped, this final in the Brainiacs region felt inevitable; Elena and Willow were the two most formidable characters in the field. While both characters won lopsided victories in the Sweet 16, hats off to Angelica Porter-Kennard and Ola Nyman who over-performed throughout this tournament. I’m definitely moving Sex Education up my Netflix watchlist.

According to the data from our Challonge bracket competition, a lot of y’all saw this match-up coming. Of those who anticipated the match-up between Ola and Willow, an outstanding 92% predicted a victory for Buffy’s brainiac. Likewise, of those who anticipated the match-up between Elena and Angelica, 85% predicted a victory for Blanquita.

Now we get to the most challenging decision of the region: Elena or Willow? Who advances to the Final Four? I can tell you that in the Elite 8 they both got almost exactly the same number of votes, so I genuinely have no clue who’s going to pull this one out.

Jocks Region

Autostraddle March 2024 - Jocks - #2 seed Emily Fields vs. #4 seed Van Palmer

#2. Emily Fields, Pretty Little Liars vs. #4. Vanessa “Van” Palmer, Yellowjackets

Usually, when I’m preparing for a new round of Autostraddle March Madness, I can take a peak at the results… see which direction the vote is going and start working on a draft of the post and graphics. But y’all said, “NOT TODAY, NATALIE!” as voting for the Jocks Region was so close, it was impossible to determine who would win before the 48 hour voting window closed… so I had to wait… and hope that enough of you voted that the final count didn’t end in a tie.

In the end, one contest was decided by 10 votes. Another contest was decided by 1 vote. ONE, SINGLE, SOLITARY VOTE!

I wondered, in the third round, if Van, who had survived a plane crash and being mauled by wolves, could survive and advance in a match-up with Casey Gardner… and, as it turns out, she can. The Yellowjackets’ goalkeeper fended off a strong push by the Newton track star, besting her by just 10 votes. Van’s win could bust some brackets in our bracket challenge, as 70% of those who anticipated the match-up between Casey and Van thought Casey would win.

The match-up between Emily Fields and Izzie Taylor was just as hotly contested and finished with the closest result in Autostraddle March Madness history. The Sharks’ swimmer won by just one vote… a far less decisive win than your predictions suggested. Seventy-two percent of those who anticipated the Emily/Izzie match-up thought she’d win.

Having both survived impossibly close contests, which fandom has the strength to advance to the Sweet 16? Emily or Van? Sharks or Yellowjackets?

Rebels Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Rebels - #3 seed Ellie Williams vs. #5 seed Cal Burns

#3. Ellie Williams, The Last of Us vs.#5. Calliope “Cal” Burns, First Kill

Color me shocked. I sincerely thought that the presence of both Willow and Tara in this contest — in opposite regions, as opposed to other couples who ended up in the same region — would help both of them advance in this tournament. I thought Buffy fans would vote for both haves of the Twillow ship, but apparently, not. A couple hundred more Buffy fans voted for Willow than Tara and, ultimately, that doomed the Scooby Gang in the Rebels region. But I also have to give credit to Ellie Williams, who’s been a formidable newcomer to the Autostraddle March Madness competition. It’s a real testament to what Bella Ramsey has done on-screen in just one season of The Last of Us.

Speaking of one season wonders: kudos to the vampire slayer, Calliope “Cal” Burns, for her unexpected win over Euphoria’s Rue Bennett. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised — Rue had just barely eked out a win in the Round of 32 over Scylla Ramshorn of Motherland: Fort Salem — but the margin here was so, so narrow: Cal won by just 5 votes.

What happens now is up to you: does Calliope Burns survive or is The Last of Us‘ Ellie Williams going to be the last one standing in the Rebels region?

Thesbians Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Thesbians - #1 seed Santana Lopez vs. #2 seed Brittany S. Pierce

#1. Santana Lopez, Glee vs. #2. Brittany Pierce, Glee

For a moment there, I was nervous. Through the first few rounds of the tournament Kate and Emaline of Everything Sucks looked even stronger than I’d anticipated. I started to wonder if they could do it… could they pull off the upset?. They had won this contest before, could they pull off a repeat performance? Your answer to that, in the third round of Autostraddle March Madness voting, was an emphatic no. Everyone’s favorite thesbians from Glee were just too much for the Boring High School kids to overcome.

Those folks participating in the bracket challenge saw this outcome coming: 100% of participants predicted that Santana would best Emaline, while 88% predicted that Brittany would take down Kate. So now all that’s left to decide is which half of our favorite teen ship will advance to the Final Four.

As usual, you have 48 hours to cast your ballot in the Elite 8! Remember, you can vote four times over the voting period (or to be more exact once, every 12 hours) so take advantage of every opportunity to vote for your fave. The contests are getting tighter with every round so you never know how crucial your vote could be. After we tabulate the votes and update the bracket, we’ll be back to announce which of these characters have advanced to our Final Four!

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A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 396 articles for us.


  1. I definitely think it comes down to Willow and Santana with Santana taking it all. They both stand the test of time and have an iconic status that the others haven’t achieved yet. The fracturing of what everyone is able to watch due to streaming now probably hurts the others as well. I think Santana takes it since she’s already topped other contests or rankings here.

    As a side note, these spam bot comments are super weird. Where did you come from and why are you here, bots?

  2. Can someone explain to me why Paige keeps getting all this credit and Caitlin doesn’t?? Even if Mulkey was outcoached, most players can’t drop that even on the worst defenses! And credit to her teammates but she also majorly sets them up.

    I just keep seeing this rhetoric and I want to understand, lol

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