The national championship drought for the Big Ten might not end in Minneapolis after two decades, but this could be a year when the conference gets several teams past the NCAA tournament’s first weekend.

Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue were in a heated race for the Big Ten regular-season title before the Spartans and Boilermakers shared the crown. The Wolverines, though, might be the favorite to make the deepest run again after reaching the 2018 national championship game.

A year ago, the Big Ten had the best NCAA tournament winning percentage by any major conference at 9-4 (69.2 percent). How many wins the (predicted) eight Big Ten teams can rack up this year depends on matchups, but the league is a bigger threat to make noise in 2019. Here’s a tournament forecast for the eight teams that should get a bid Sunday:

Michigan State

Tournament prediction: Sweet 16

Make a run? The top seed in the Big Ten tournament has Nick Ward back from a hand injury and Big Ten player of the year Cassius Winston running the point guard spot better than most.

Early exit? Losses to Illinois and Indiana twice showed how poorly Tom Izzo’s team can perform, especially with top shooting guard Joshua Langford out with an injury.

Purdue

Tournament prediction: Sweet 16

Make a run? How many teams have a guard who can score 40 (Carsen Edwards) and a 7-3 center who can block shots (Matt Haarms)? One.

Early exit? The Boilers are vulnerable when they can’t hit threes, and Edwards, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, can go cold.

Michigan

Tournament prediction: Elite Eight

Make a run? John Beilein is making a case to replace Izzo as Mr. March. Michigan’s defense is the best in the country, led by guards Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews.

Early exit? Matthews missed the end of the regular season with an ankle injury, and they rely too much on freshman Iggy Brazdeikis, who has vanished in losses.

Wisconsin

Tournament prediction: Sweet 16

Make a run? After missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years last season, the Badgers are back. All-America center Ethan Happ and his team’s slow-paced style are tough to prepare for.

Early exit? The Badgers play so ugly at times. They get stuck in long scoring droughts, and Hack-a-Happ makes it tough to keep Wisconsin’s best player on the floor in crunch time.

Maryland

Tournament prediction: Second round

Make a run? Few teams in the tournament will have a longer and more athletic frontcourt than twin towers Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, both 6-10 NBA prospects.

Early exit? The Terrapins are one of the youngest teams in the country, especially in the backcourt aside from All-Big Ten junior Anthony Cowan.

Iowa

Tournament prediction: First round

Make a run? A motivated Tyler Cook would be a difficult matchup in the post. Jordan Bohannon’s late-game heroics from three-point territory might provide some March Madness highlights.

Early exit? The Hawkeyes can score with anyone in college basketball, but they can also give up a ton of points.

Gophers

Tournament prediction: Second round

Make a run? Nobody in the Big Ten was scoring at a higher rate than junior Amir Coffey in the past handful of games. Imagine if he continued that play in the Big Dance.

Early exit? Senior captains Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy provide so much leadership, so the Gophers can’t win when they don’t play well.

Ohio State

Tournament prediction: First round

Make a run? The Buckeyes were not an NCAA tourney team without Kaleb Wesson, going 0-3 when he was suspended. But they are dangerous with him back.

Early exit? Wesson doesn’t need to be suspended to be missing in action for Ohio State. The gifted 6-8 sophomore gets into foul trouble often.

 

Marcus Fuller covers college basketball for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @Marcus_R_Fuller

Blog: startribune.com/gophers

E-mail: marcus.fuller@startribune.com