The Zips return a solid, proven, 7-man rotation anchored by 3 seniors (Zeke, Q, Gilliam) and 2 juniors (Rico, Walsh).
Those experienced players are backed by 2 talented and athletic sophomore bigs with a full season's experience (Tree, Harney). There's also a 3rd sophomore big with a year's experience (Egner). I count these 3 as sophomores with the understanding that Tree and Harney will likely earn a 5th year of eligibility, and Egner will be successful in getting a medical redshirt and a 5th year of eligibility.
Add to that a 6-3 guard with 6-9 wingspan who at least has a partial season of college experience (Ibitayo), and the Zips will be 9-deep in players who are all familiar with the Zips system. Even if none of the freshmen play a single minute, the Zips are deep enough in experienced talent to win both MAC championships and win games in the NCAA tournament. Doesn't mean they will. But the potential is there for these talented players with another year of experience to be even better next season. And while potential doesn't win championships, teams without potential aren't even in the discussion. It takes potential plus hard work and execution to win big games and championships.
As far as I know, the top 7 returning players are generally well thought of by most Zips fans. Assuming they all raise their level of play another notch next season, I don't expect we will have a situation as we did with Nitro this season where he appeared to lose confidence, lose his game, and lose the support of the fans.
The one thing I would like to see is a tougher physical fitness program for all the Zips players focusing on endurance. I want to see them run back and forth up and down the court on both offense and defense, and after an extended run of that see the other teams' players gasping for breath and not the Zips.
OU returns all their players and will be the MAC favorites. If OU improves as much or more than the Zips improve, the Zips will likely be runners-up again next season. The key to next season is for the Zips to improve more as individual players, to mesh better as a team, and to focus more on the type of game it will take to beat OU. The Zips need to develop an attitude that they are better than the Bobkitties, they need to get a chip on their shoulder to prove it, and then they need to go execute.
Other teams in the MAC would have to improve a lot to challenge the Zips or OU next season. It could happen, but I don't see it right now. Some teams might surprise during the regular conference season. But the cream usually rises to the top at the Q.