This year’s edition of Michigan State Spartans basketball has driven coach Tom Izzo up a wall for most of the season. The Hall of Famer hasn’t been shy when expressing frustration with inconsistent play. The word “lazy” has been thrown around a few times, all in an attempt to motivate.

Oh, and there was the “fat and sassy” comment back in January.

Can’t forget that one.

If there has ever been a team to drive Izzo crazy, this is probably the one. Following Wednesday night’s 70-62 loss to Wisconsin at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Izzo said that his Spartans “got punked” by the Badgers, who got beat up by Illinois — 80-67 — during the previous weekend.

“Give Wisconsin a lot of credit, they came in here after losing a game and I thought they played hard as hell the first half. I thought we were very soft,” Izzo said after mentioning that a “poor coaching job” also contributed to the untimely loss.

Yes, this team is going to drive Izzo up a few walls. Well, it’s already done that — but there could be more turbulence to come for the Spartans, who are fighting for better positioning come NCAA Tournament selection time. March Madness has been a staple of Izzo’s career, but the legendary coach could find himself on the outside of the bubble if things continue to trend in the current direction.

Luckily for the Spartans, they have 3 of their next 5 at the Breslin Center, where they’ve gone 9-2 this season. Excluding a home game Feb. 19 vs. now-No. 13 Illinois, they’ll have a relatively light schedule as they prepare to face Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, a rescheduled meeting between the in-state rivals. MSU won the first game, 83-67, in late January — so depending on how the next 5 games unfold, MSU could be facing an “in-or-out” game vs. Michigan (in regard to the tournament).

Michigan State’s woes can be directly connected to turnovers and the lack of true dominance at the point guard position. It’s been a few years since Cassius Winston starred in the show. Following experiments with Foster Loyer and Rocket Watts, both of whom transferred, Izzo has now tabbed AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker as the point man — and the jury is still out in regard to a final verdict on the pair.

The days of Kalin Lucas and Drew Neitzel, Travis Trice and the like, are long gone for Izzo, or so it seems. Michigan State has to get back to its roots, which is strong PG play and the relentless pursuit of rebounds. Right now, Hoggard’s season average of 2.3 turnovers matches Lucas’ career line, so there might be a little hope. However, Hoggard plays roughly 19 minutes per game. Lucas plays 30-plus all of the time. Hoggard, a junior, might not be MSU’s next-great PG, but he’s shown some potential.

Walker, a transfer from Northeastern, has scored double-digits 7 times this year. Another made shot during a handful of games, and he’d likely have about 11-12 of them to his credit. With 4.4 assists per game, he’s doing pretty well.

In order for the Spartans to be a real competitor in March, Hoggard and Walker have to assert themselves at the point and continue to develop. Pretty standard stuff right there, right? “He has to continue getting better,” said the expert media guy. Well, that is the bottom line for both — a rare tandem at PG for Izzo. Like it or not, Michigan State has always been led by point guards. Success in March always fell on the shoulders of Lucas, Neitzel, Winston and Trice.

Can Hoggard do the same? He’s had a flash or two this year. He scored a career-high 17 vs. Kansas in the season-opener and put up 10 during the blowout win over Michigan. But he’ll, again, have to continue to growing more comfortable.  What about Walker?

Max Christie, a winger and one of Izzo’s highest-ranked 5-star recruits, is averaging 9.9 points per game — just like 7-footer Marcus Bingham. If they come around, Michigan State could have a nice foursome that will put up at least 40-50 points per night. Maybe a 5-way deal if Walker ups his frequency.

When it comes to scoring, regardless of player, the Spartans haven’t seemed to find a true bucket-getter. Even last year, which wasn’t MSU’s best under Izzo, they had Aaron Henry, who could fill up the net with ease when he got hot. He was also the only MSU player who finished averaging double-digits. Gabe Brown chips in with 12.8 per night and Malik Hall gets 10.1, but Michigan State just doesn’t have that “it” scorer. Three years ago, and even without an “it” scorer, the Spartans had 3 players finish the season with double-digit scoring averages, with Winston leading the pack with 18.6 per outing.

In 2018-19, Izzo’s 8th Final Four season, Winston put up 18.8 and had Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman — walking double-doubles/damn-near double-doubles most of the time — assisting with production.

It’s not some crazy hidden secret here: Michigan State has problems with consistent scoring/individual dominance.

Turnovers, as mentioned way earlier, have plagued the Spartans, who give it away 14 times per game  — the most since 2016-17. Basically, the Spartans gave the Badgers every opportunity to win this past Wednesday in East Lansing.

Izzo will either get things corrected in time to make a run, or he’ll continue to lose sleep and stress-out over a team that’s lacking in the Basketball 101 Department: Score the ball, don’t give ball to other team.

Belief in the Spartans, though, can go either way. Either it was bound to happen, Izzo’s squads finally tapering off a little bit; or they’ll see the light and make some incredible run to the Final Four, maybe in a similar manner as the 2015 team, which was on the bubble as late as mid-February before realizing its potential.