Autostraddle March Madness 2024: “The Kids Are Alright” Sweet 16

Header: The 6th Annual Autostraddle March Madness 2024

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Over the last two days, the NCAA women’s tournament crowned its Elite 8 and all the games have been must-see television. Yesterday’s slate of games kicked off with UCLA and the defending national champions, LSU… and the Bruins had the game in the palm of their hand but just let it slip away. Credit to Tigers guard Flau’jae Johnson, though, who would not let her team be denied. Late in the game, Johnson was everywhere, coming up with big plays on both ends of the court. LSU’s victory sets the stage for a game most fans have been anticipating since the bracket was announced: a rematch of last year’s national championship between LSU and Iowa.

The Hawkeyes were able to advance on the strength of their best team performance of the tournament thus far: every member of their starting line-up scored in double digits. Caitlin Clark got her points, of course — 29 points on 13-22 shooting — but she also got to showcase what I think is an underappreciated aspect of her game: her passing ability. Her 15 assists tied a season high and pushed Clark past Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot on the all-time assist leaders list. Everyone’s so obsessed with this idea of Clark shooting the lights out when she gets to the WNBA but what we saw yesterday was a glimpse into her professional future, in my opinion: dropping dimes to the Indiana Fever’s Aliyah Boston.

In the third game, USC — that’s the University of Southern California, not the University of South Carolina — outlasted Baylor to claim their spot in the Elite 8. There’s been a lot of effusive praise for USC’s freshman phenom, Juju Watkins…and rightfully so…but credit to Baylor for holding Watkins to one of her worst shooting performances of the year. The Bears were one possession and, perhaps, one foul call away from a trip from the Elite 8. The karmic balance has been restored in Waco, Texas and so, I agree with Bears Head Coach, Nicki Collen: “nothing’s withering in Waco.”

In yesterday’s final game….woof…UCONN survived what may have been the ugliest game of the tournament thus far. While you’d never know from the hubbub about this game, Duke actually executed their game plan pretty well, at least on the defensive end. In the end, the Huskies only scored four more times than the Blue Devils. But, after exhausting themselves on defense, Duke couldn’t deliver on the other side of the ball: shooting just 32.7% and turning it over 23 times. But an ugly win is still a win and, with it, UCONN joined NC State as the only school with both men’s and women’s teams in the Elite 8.

So now the Elite 8 is all set: South Carolina and Oregon State and Texas and NC State playing today and Iowa and LSU and USC and UCONN tipping off on Monday night. It’s gonna be exciting…and by exciting, I mean, anxiety inducing for me, personally.

But while we take in the NCAA’s Elite 8, we need to get started on the work of crowning our own. Our remaining options are a good mix between nostalgic and modern day queer characters and their juxtaposition offers a glimpse at how queer storytelling has evolved over the years. On Friday, you all narrowed the field down to just sixteen characters and now, it’s time to narrow it down to eight. Let’s look at what you did in the Round of 32, shall we?

Brainiacs Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Brainiacs - #1 seed Elena Alvarez vs. #12 seed Angelica Porter-Kennard

#1. Elena Alvarez, One Day at a Time vs. #12. Angelica Porter-Kennard, The L Word: Generation Q

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Brainiacs - #3 seed Willow Rosenberg vs. #10 seed Ola Nyman

#3. Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. #10. Ola Nyman, Sex Education

The Brainiacs Region has been the most unpredictable of the tournament thus far… or so I thought.

In actuality, the folks participating in our annual bracket challenge nail it in their predictions for the region. According to the Challonge stats, 73% of participants predicted the second round match-up between Elena Alvarez and Clare Devlin, and of those brackets, 68% predicted Elena to advance to the Sweet 16. Only a small portion — 32% to be exact — of our brackets predicted that Angelica Porter-Kennard would face Abbi Singh in the second round, but the overwhelming majority of those prognosticators picked Angie to advance… and that’s exactly what happened. I cannot even begin to fathom how voters are going to decide between Elena and Angie in this round.

Given how ubiquitous Reneé Rapp has become, I was expecting a tougher match-up with Buffy brainiac, Willow Rosenberg, but no such luck. The proud member of the Scooby Gang moves onto to face Ola Nyman, the breakout star of this tournament. To be honest, I expected Tess Pearson to pull the mini-upset in her match-up with Ola. After all, she was part of the cast of one of the most watched shows on network television. But Ola continues to exceed expectations, defeating Tess by a substantial margin, and advances to the next round. We’ll see if she’s finally met her match in Willow.

Jocks Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Jocks - #1 seed Casey Gardner vs. #4 seed Van Palmer

#1. Casey Gardner, Atypical vs. #4. Vanessa “Van” Palmer, Yellowjackets

Autostraddle March 2024 - Jocks - #2 seed Emily Fields vs. #3 seed Izzie Taylor

#2. Emily Fields, Pretty Little Liars vs. #3. Izzie Taylor, Atypical

It’s all chalk in the Jocks Region where the top four seeds are the last ones standing. I’ll confess that I’m a little surprised we didn’t see at least one upset in the Round of 32, especially given that both members of the Rosewood High School swim team were competing. I thought for sure that Emily’s success would make Paige more formidable… and, based on Challonge’s data, I wasn’t alone. Of those who predicted a second round match-up between Izzie and Paige, 53% thought the swimmer would beat the track star. Apparently, though, we were wrong, as Izzie won their match-up handily and moves on to face Emily in the Sweet 16. Can the Liar avenge her ex’s loss?

Based on bracket predictions, lots of folks expected Riverdale‘s Cheryl Blossom to be a formidable challenger: 52% of the predictions picked her to upset Casey in the second round. But the voters had a different idea, giving Casey the win by a considerable margin. The track star from Newton will meet the Yellowjackets’ fierce goalkeeper in next round. In the closest second round match-up of this region, Van edged out her girlfriend Taissa for a spot in the Sweet 16. Van’s survived a plane crash and being mauled by wolves… can she survive and advance in a match-up with Casey Gardner?

Rebels Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Rebels - #1 seed Rue Bennett vs. #5 seed Cal Burns

#1. Rue Bennett, Euphoria vs. #5. Calliope “Cal” Burns, First Kill

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Rebels - #2 seed Tara Maclay vs. #3 seed Ellie Williams

#2. Tara Maclay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. #3. Ellie Williams, The Last of Us

When y’all set the match-ups for the Round of 32, I would never have guessed that it would be the most competitive of all the match-ups would happen in the Rebels region. The second round match-up between Rue Bennett of Euphoria and Scylla Ramshorn of Motherland: Fort Salem was the closest contest we’ve had thus far! In the end, Rue edge Scylla out but just by the slimmest of margins. The close contest is quite the contrast to the results in our bracket competition, where nearly two-thirds of those who anticipated this match-up, picked Rue to win it.

Rue’s win sets up a face-off with Calliope “Cal” Burns who defeated their on-screen love interest in the last round. I have to admit I was surprised by that outcome, but I guess y’all are #TeamSlayer because you advanced both Cal and Tara to the Sweet 16. They’ll be joined there by Ellie Williams, who easily dispatched Jordan Li in the last round. It was a good run for Gen V’s Jordan — advancing from the First Four to the Round of 32 — but her journey ends there.

Thesbians Region

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Thesbians - #1 seed Santana Lopez vs. #12 seed Emaline Addario

#1. Santana Lopez, Glee vs. #12. Emaline Addario, Everything Sucks!

Autostraddle March Madness 2024 - Thesbians - #2 seed Brittany Pierce vs. #3 seed Kate Messner

#2. Brittany Pierce, Glee vs. #3. Kate Messner, Everything Sucks!

What a final four we have here in the Thesbians bracket! Both halves of two incredible ships: Brittana of Glee and Emaline of Everything Sucks. Both Brittany and Santana advance to the Sweet 16 after dominant wins in the second round. Kate and Emaline had formidable opponents in Elle Argent of Heartstopper and Coop from All American but were able to edge them out.

An interesting thing to note about these ships, though: some people are splitting their votes. Maybe that speaks to the level of the competition but still, it’s noteworthy that Santana outdrew Brittany and Emaline outdrew Kate in the second round. I’ll be interested to see if that trend continues as we approach the Final Four.

As usual, you have 48 hours to cast your ballot in the Sweet 16! 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 pivotable your vote could be. After we tabulate the votes and update the bracket, we’ll be back to announce which of these characters have advances to our Elite 8!

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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.

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