Roundtable: What's next for Tennessee and predictions for Sunday's NCAA tournament games

Our panel discusses what another early-round NCAA exit means for Tennessee, recaps Saturday and makes predictions for Sunday's second-round games. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

This story has been corrected. Read below

The first round of the women's NCAA tournament is behind us, and the field has been narrowed to 32 teams. Mechelle Voepel and Charlie Creme of espnW weigh in on the best and worst of Saturday and look ahead to what we might expect when the second round begins Sunday.

What's next for Tennessee after the Lady Vols' first-round exit?

Voepel: A third consecutive early-round loss in the NCAA tournament is bad enough. A player (Evina Westbrook) telling the media after the game that there need to be changes with the Lady Vols -- including the staff -- is a clear sign that they have significant chemistry issues and internal strife, which was evident in some of their losses this season, including at home to Vanderbilt.

Athletic director Phillip Fulmer extended coach Holly Warlick's contract through 2021-22 in August. Buying out women's basketball coaching contracts has rarely been done, but Tennessee might be in that position.

Does Warlick need to be replaced? Her staff? Both? If nothing happens, will players transfer? And how long can Tennessee continue to lose ground to other SEC programs that have become powers, such as Mississippi State and South Carolina?

Fulmer and the Tennessee athletic department must decide soon whether the program can continue as it is. Tabling this is not going to make it better.

Creme: The Tennessee program needs a culture change. Sophomore Evina Westbrook alluded to such after the loss to UCLA on Saturday. That revamped culture could come in the form of completely new personnel or an altered approach by the staff already in place.

My instincts say the former doesn't come without some change to the latter. It might be time for new leadership atop the Lady Vols' operation, and some players need to look in the mirror and evaluate their commitment to the program.

A No. 11 seed and first-round exit aren't acceptable at any of the top-20 programs -- especially not at a school with eight national titles that was so important to the growth of the sport.

What surprised you most from the second day of the tournament?

Voepel: How strong No. 5 seed Gonzaga looked from the tip in beating Little Rock in the Albany Regional. Considering the Bulldogs' injury issues, there were questions about how well they would play. They answered those by outscoring the Trojans 21-2 in the first quarter.

Creme: Michigan State's ability to outscore Central Michigan was not how I saw that game going. For the Spartans to win, I thought they would need physical play and rugged defense. Neither happened, and Michigan State still won a wildly entertaining 88-87 game.

While the Spartans controlled the offensive boards for key stretches, the final rebounding advantage was only 33-30. Michigan State never tried to push and bang Reyna Frost, the Chippewas' 6-foot star post player. In fact, the Spartans never even doubled her, and Frost put up 34 points. Coach Suzy Merchant elected to push tempo even more, a game that Central Michigan likes to play, but it worked, and the Spartans advanced to the second round for the ninth time in 15 years.

What was the best moment from Saturday?

Voepel: Going with some nostalgia here: Seeing Missouri State coach Kellie Harper and assistant Jackie Stiles looking so intense on the Lady Bears' bench as they upset No. 6 seed DePaul and remembering how important both were to their teams as players, with Harper winning three NCAA titles with Tennessee (1996-98) and Stiles getting to the Final Four with mid-major Missouri State in 2001. Today, they helped the Lady Bears to their first NCAA tournament victory since Stiles & Co. won their Elite Eight game against Washington in 2001.

Creme: Boise State lost, but the confidence with which the Broncos played in the second half against Oregon State was fascinating. They were the better team for most of the game, and senior guard Marta Hermida seemed to know it when she winked at the rim after she made two free throws to give Boise State a late four-point lead.

What team do you feel differently about now than you did coming into the day?

Voepel: Michigan State lost six of its 10 games since Feb. 7, four of those against teams that didn't make the NCAA tournament. The No. 9-seeded Spartans were going against a No. 8 Central Michigan team that made the Sweet 16 last year and would like nothing better than to beat a Big Ten team. The Spartans had to battle for this one. Their 88-87 win on Shay Colley's layup with seven seconds left was big. It means they have to face defending national champion Notre Dame next, but the Spartans are happy to have that chance.

Creme: Beating DePaul was always in the cards for Missouri State. Thoroughly controlling the game against the Blue Demons from the middle of the second quarter was something else entirely. The Lady Bears have been good all season -- as two wins over Drake and close losses to Gonzaga and Missouri indicated -- but this kind of performance exceeded expectations.

Missouri State has averaged just more than 4.5 3-pointers per game this season. In its past two games -- the Missouri Valley championship game against Drake and Saturday's first-round win over DePaul -- the Lady Bears have made a combined 20. That kind of shooting gives them a chance against another really good shooting team in Iowa State in the second round.

Give us one Sunday upset pick that would shock most of the world but would not shock you.

Voepel: No. 7 seed Missouri got some big wins on the road during SEC play, including at Tennessee (early in January when that was still a big win), at Mississippi State (the only visiting team to win in Starkville the past two years) and at Arkansas (the week before the Razorbacks went on their run to the SEC tournament final). Beating No. 2 seed Iowa on the Hawkeyes' home court is a possibility. Staying out of foul trouble and limiting turnovers, both of which have been issues, are keys for the Tigers.

Creme: Just two years removed from a national championship, South Carolina is a more well-known program than Florida State and the higher seed. But the fifth-seeded Seminoles' getting to the Sweet 16 with a win Sunday would not surprise me. The Seminoles have been the more consistent team most of this season and have the more dependable go-to player in Kiah Gillespie. Yes, Florida State struggled to beat Bucknell in the first round, and the fourth-seeded Gamecocks cruised against Belmont, but South Carolina's Bianca Cuevas-Moore did not play and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan was held out in the first half. When asked why the players were apparently disciplined, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said, "obviously something happened but I am just not going to divulge that information." Could that continue to be a distraction for South Carolina?

Who might have the bigger impact: Iowa's Megan Gustafson or Missouri's Sophie Cunningham?

Voepel: Here's a way to look at this: Gustafson's status as the leading scorer and one of the best rebounders in the nation is a given. Nobody has stopped her. She'll get her double-double, and opponents are lucky if it's only 28 and 13.

Cunningham, as good as she has been, has been held to single-digit scoring games six times, though all of those were earlier in this season, either before forward Cierra Porter rejoined the team or soon afterward.

Cunningham needs to hit jump shots, and she has to avoid foul trouble. If she can do both, she has the chance to have a bigger impact -- in part because, fair or not, what Gustafson does is so consistent that it's almost taken for granted.

Creme: Cunningham handles the ball more and plays more areas on defense, so the natural answer would be that she would have the most influence. However, Gustafson's post play and scoring are such an overwhelming part of every Iowa game.

If Gustafson is catching it low enough on the block, she is virtually unstoppable because she so rarely misses, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field. Iowa can simply keep going to that unless Missouri finds a creative way to slow her down. Cierra Porter might not be enough by herself. Cunningham has to play well for the Tigers to win, but Missouri has sometimes struggled this season in games in which she has been great.

A March 23 story on ESPN.com misstated the reason two starters on the South Carolina women's basketball team did not play in the team's first-round NCAA tournament game. The players were held out due to a coach's decision.