By DeShaun Tate

25. Harvard Crimson:

*Tate’s Take: Just like every season, many won’t take the Ivy League seriously on the hardwood. That will play into the advantage of Head Coach Tommy Amaker’s ball club this season. Two of the past three seasons after making the NCAA tournament, Harvard has recorded consecutive first round victories for the first time in school history (vs. New Mexico, Cincinnati). Don’t expect that to change anytime soon, at least not on Tommy’s watch. Last season’s conference Player of the Year Wesley Saunders leads the team in scoring but has help in the back court during his last year in Cambridge, MA from Junior Siyani Chambers. Not much production is expected off the bench behind the 2-guard combo… a perfect opportunity for Freshman Andre Chatfield, a Georgia native that plays multiple positions and is expected to provide a spark immediately.

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24. Ohio State Buckeyes:

*Tate’s Take: Statistically the best defensive team in the best defensive conference last season. None of that will matter this season as they lose arguably the best perimeter defender in the nation in Aaron Craft. Nevertheless, a key question remains unanswered in Columbus, Ohio: Is Senior Shannon Scott ready to ‘take the keys to the city’ and lead this team for an entire season without the assistance of a proven SG to back him? Sure, Forwards Amir Williams, Trey McDonald, Sam Thompson and relentless pogo-transfer Anthony Lee will likely showcase the most experienced, long and athletic front court in the country but can they do what OSU has struggled to do in recent history since the Greg Oden era: PUT THE BALL IN THE BASKET! This has been an ‘itch tough to scratch’ for Thad Matta as most of that responsibility will now rely heavily on quick-striking Freshman SG D’Angelo Russell. OSU must also turn their focus to shooting the ball much better from the charity stripe (68% last season). The Bucks are known for recruiting many of the ‘same types’ of players… don’t be surprised if Marc Loving turns into a Super Sophomore. Think along the lines of solid former OSU defenders: Lenzelle Smith Jr. and David Lighty. Will this be the rare year that Thad goes more than 7 or 8 deep?

23. Syracuse Orange:

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*Tate’s Take: In Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim’s 38 seasons, no other team he has led will return a lower scoring percentage (37) than this year. To add fuel to the fire, shooting percentages will be unexpectedly low. Only a year ago did Syracuse struggle to score (68 ppg, their lowest since the 1962-1963 season). Not to mention the injury uncertainty is a major concern for the Orange who enter only their second season in the much improving ACC, which seems disaster-like for the Cuse. The elephant in the room is obviously DaJuan Coleman, a highly-touted Junior coming out of high school whom has failed to stay off the IR after 2 knee surgeries in as many seasons. Expect Kaleb Joseph take over the reigns as the primary ball handler after Tyler Ennis bolted for the NBA. Rugged interim Center Rakeem Christmas will help carry much of the load with some help from sharp-shooting assassin Trevor Cooney. Although this team will likely struggle to score and all else fails, you can always count on getting stops on the other end with the infamous 2-3 Zone.

22. Nebraska Cornhuskers:

*Tate’s Take: Don’t look now but for the first time in most collegiate basketball fans’ remembrance, Nebraska has a realistic chance to finish it’s season on the hardwood better than it’s on the gridiron. In large part due to it’s well balanced offense in high regards to it’s Junior class. Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford and Shavon Fields can all do a little bit of everything extremely well. Large credit due to their scoring in large sums but don’t underrate nor underestimate their ability to defend. All three can slash and showcase versatility from multiple positions. A program largely known for having a down season year after year made adjustments in 2013-2014 and has more of the same planned entering 2014-2015. The Cornhuskers totaled 11 league wins in a very competitive Big Ten a year ago with only 7 losses, ultimately recording the program’s first in-conference winning record in nearly 20 years. Nebraska upset MSU on the road followed by Wisconsin and Ohio State at home. You can always count on a very unexpected huge win from UN. Tim Miles and company won’t surprise anyone this time around. If he plans on his optimism to continue in Lincoln, he’ll need much-needed transfer (Georgetown), Moses Abraham to contribute defensively right away and stay out of foul trouble. The rest remains to be seen. Could we see Nebraska finish higher than Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State? It wouldn’t be too far fetched!

21. Oklahoma Sooners:

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*Tate’s Take: Could this be the season that seemingly underachieving Head Coach Lon Kruger leads OU to the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 and exceed playing beyond the first weekend for the first time in over 5 years? It seems likely although losing ‘do-it-all’ G/F Cameron Clark won’t be easy. Interestingly enough, Senior transfer (Houston) TaShawn Thomas will join former H.S. QB and tough F/C Ryan Spangler to form who I call the most rugged front court in college basketball. Spangler, a Junior is a double-double machine in the making. The guard play isn’t too shabby either: Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard will showcase one of the most loaded back courts in the nation not named Villanova. Much will be asked of Freshman Dante Buford and I expect him to take the challenge on well. Last year’s second-best scoring team in the Big 12 also ranked first in free-throw percentage. Back to the drawing board, the biggest challenge that lies ahead is still… winning multiple games in the NCAA Tournament.