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Lady Vols' early exit will make for a long offseason for the rookies

You wouldn't find many folks picking Tennessee to repeat as national champions -- after all, Pat Summitt's group of rookies has hardly been the model of consistency this season. The Lady Vols even entered the tournament at No. 5, their lowest seed ever. Still, you'd have a hard time finding anyone predicting a first-round exit for one of the most storied programs in women's basketball history. On Sunday, though, the Lady Vols made history yet again with a 71-55 loss to 12th-seeded Ball State for their earliest departure from the tournament ever. "All I can hope is that it will be a motivation," Summitt said after the game. "We are only graduating one senior and it's all about what this team decides to do in the offseason."

The Lady Vols will have a lot to think about in the long offseason. Perhaps the new crew, who have yet to show they understand the work it takes to win a title, thought things would be just as easy as it had been for those past teams that flew through the first rounds. The Tennessee rookies might have taken their first trip to the tournament lightly. Ball State sure didn't. The Cardinals, in the NCAA tournament for the first time, showed the desire and poise that Summitt expects from her own teams. Whether this group reaches that level or not, remains to be seen. The Lady Vols certainly have a longer offseason than ever to get there.

No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Ball State -- You can't help but want to know how the team that knocked off Tennessee in the first round fares next. The Cardinals face a team that has an outstanding defense along with one of the best three-point attacks in the country.

No. 2 Auburn at No. 7 Rutgers -- In one of the toughest venues around, Auburn may have the most difficult second round matchup with a team enjoying home court advantage. The Tigers have an experienced group with four seniors in the starting lineup, including SEC player of the year Dewanna Bonner. With size and range, the 6-4 Bonner is a tough matchup for anyone.

No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 7 South Dakota State -- Coach Kim Mulkey may or may not be on the sidelines for this one. She spent game one hospitalized because of a reaction to medication she was taking after having a kidney stone removed. Of course, Mulkey has one of the best assistants in the game in former Louisiana Tech head coach Leon Barmore. Either way, the Bears will have to do a better job than another Texas team against the perimeter game of SDSU. The Jackrabbits tied the NCAA tournament record for three-pointers with 16 in their opening-round win against TCU.

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Minnesota -- After losing five of its final 10 games, Minnesota barely made the tournament. On Sunday, though, the Gophers pulled off an upset at Notre Dame. The Aggies will provide a different challenge, though. Texas A&M is one of the quickest, most athletic teams Minnesota will face. The Aggies are aggressive on defense, and with La Toya Micheaux and Danielle Gant, have an inside game to challenge the Gophers' post players who were so good against the Irish.

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