COLUMBIA -- Two trips to the heart of Big Ten country highlight a challenging non-conference schedule for South Carolina's youthful basketball team, the school announced Tuesday.

The Gamecocks will travel to play at Michigan State on Nov. 16. A little more than a month later, on Dec. 18, they'll play at Ohio State.

Michigan State, 28-9 last season, was a Final Four team in 2009-10. Ohio State, which was in the same bracket, reached the Sweet 16.

"We're looking to continue building a program," coach Darrin Horn said Tuesday. "We do that by how we play -- and who we play."

South Carolina begins its season Nov. 12 against Elon inside Colonial Life Arena.

Other tough non-conference games include a Nov. 27 trip to Western Kentucky, hosting Clemson on Dec. 5, bringing in Wofford on Dec. 5 and Boston College on Jan. 1.

Horn said last season's schedule wound up being in the top 30, nationally. He said this year's has a chance to be in the same range.

"We want to be a national-level program," Horn said. "To do that, you've got to play national-level games."

South Carolina will put a different team on the floor this fall -- a young one. Senior forward Sam Muldrow is the only player who has been in the program more than a year.

The Gamecocks could play as many as four sophomores or newcomers at one time. Among the newcomers are two Lowcountry products, former Berkeley point guard Bruce Ellington and former Fort Dorchester wing R.J. Slawson.

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com, check out the Gamecocks blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks.