Illinois center Kofi Cockburn has established himself as one of the most intimidating players in college basketball on both ends of the floor. His presence is a huge reason why many believe the Fighting Illini have a chance to make a Final Four run this postseason.

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo understands just how good Cockburn has been this season, too. But when it comes to comparing the Illinois big man to other former B1G players, the longtime leader of the Spartans draws a blank.

According to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press, Izzo compared preparing for Cockburn to scouting Shaquille O’Neal back when Izzo was an assistant on Jud Heathcote’s MSU staff. O’Neal was a star center at LSU then.

That’s a pretty favorable comparison for Cockburn.

Cockburn is averaging a double-double this season, ranking second on the team with 17.6 points per game and leading the squad in rebounds with 10.3 boards per contest. He’s also averaged 1.5 blocks per game, too.

Michigan State is preparing to play the 5th-ranked Fighting Illini on Tuesday, the first of a brutal six-game stretch over the next 13 days. Tuesday’s showdown is the only matchup on the schedule between the two teams.

Illinois has won seven straight games and Michigan State is coming off a road win against Indiana.