They're calling it December Madness and it doesn't have anything to do with shopping.
Basketball is centre stage for nearly the entire month at the University of Winnipeg, with the first of six official Wesmen Classic events kicking off Monday night.
That is the two-day 3on3 Classic, a new format this year for Winnipeg Minor Basketball teams and events continue through to the Dec. 30 championship game of the eight-school Coca-Cola University Men's Classic, the 46th edition.
The host Wesmen will meet Alberta's Keyano College in one of the four quarter-final games Dec. 28 at the Duckworth Centre. The other quarters will feature Lakehead vs. University of Northern British Columbia, Brandon vs. Dickinson State and Mayville State vs. Mount Royal.
Heading for this week's cross-town Duckworth Challenge contest against the University of Manitoba, Wesmen men's head coach Mike Raimbault was in an optimistic mood looking ahead to Wesmen Classic action.
"I think it's always a competitive field," said Raimbault, his team 7-3 in Canada West play so far. "Lakehead is always a national championship contender. Our first-round opponent, Keyano College, actually has a former Division 1 point guard. It'll definitely be a challenging matchup for us, dealing with him. They gave us a great game last year in the first game of the tournament.
"We're expecting an exciting three days."
Though they've won the tournament 11 times since it began in 1967 as the Golden Boy, the Wesmen haven't triumphed since 2006.
This year's team has been ramping up its efficiency of late, having won seven of its last eight.
"I've been happy with our progress so far," Raimbault said. "We're going into a big matchup this week. As always, we've got some new guys and we're just really trying to continue to get better.
"The Classic has always been a great opportunity for us to get things rolling for the second term, to build confidence going forward."
Wednesday's game against the Bisons, one of two regular-season meetings, sees both teams at 7-3 nearing the end of the first half.
"It's going to be a tremendous game," Raimbault said. "Both teams are 7-3. This is probably the most meaningful matchup between the teams in my short tenure here.
"It's a battle for sole possession of second place."
Mixed with the University Division of the Wesmen Classic will be the annual high school tournament, which features eight local teams (including defending champion Garden City) beginning Dec. 27 and running through to the championship game, also Dec. 30.
This weekend, the second Wesmen Classic event takes place at the Duckworth Centre, the Jr. Wesmen/Manitoba Magic Classic Club. It's the ninth year for this event, with 28 boys and 19 girls teams in nine different age groups.
Next week on Tuesday and Wednesday, the second annual Jemei Memorial Classic is on the slate. The competition for inner-city girls teams is one of the highlights of the season-long program spearheaded by Bob Axworthy that has grown to 100 players.
This element of the Wesmen Classic also helps the fund-raising aimed to provide an annual scholarship for an inner-city athlete.
On Dec. 14 and 15, 16 teams will go through the brackets in the Junior Varsity Classic, identifying finalists that will see their championship battle played Dec. 27.
A seventh and unofficial event takes place during the main tournament week with University of Winnipeg Wesmen women's team taking on Dickinson State in a pair of exhibition games, Dec. 28 and 29 at 10 a.m. at the Duckworth Centre.
Included in the main tournament week will be the Top Gun three-point shooting contest for eight of Winnipeg high school's best shooters, and the Santa's High Flyin' Slam Jam contest where CIS and college stars will strut their stuff during half-time of games Dec. 29 and 30.
What: 46th annual Wesmen Classic.
When: 6 official events, beginning Dec. 3; main high school and University Men's events Dec. 27 to Dec. 30
Where: U of W's Duckworth Centre.
Tickets: Dec. 27-30 tournament pass, $20 (available at customer service, main level, Duckworth Centre). Day passes available.
Schedules: All schedules, as well as results, for the 3on3 Classic (Dec. 3-4), the Jr. Wesmen/Manitoba Magic Classic Club (Dec. 7-9), Inner-City Abdul Jemei Memorial Classic (Dec. 11-12), Junior Varsity Classic (Dec. 14-15, 27), High School Classic (Dec. 27-30), and University Men's Classic (Dec. 28-30) available at www.wesmen.ca.