You don't have to look far to find a West Virginia fan - especially these days with the Mountaineers crashing the NCAA Final Four for the first time in 51 years.
Despite not being in Pennsylvania, WVU has been an attractive option for a number of students in this region. Or maybe the local WVU crowd just tends to stand out.
Judge Hiram Carpenter sure does.
Though he's not a graduate of West Virginia - "for all my fanaticism, I know that's hard to believe," he said - but just imagine if he were: He'd probably be the university president.
Carpenter was at the East Regional finals in Syracuse last weekend and today is headed for the Final Four in Indianapolis.
He has basketball season tickets and makes a dozen games a year in addition to missing just one football game, home or away, in the last five years - and that was for his daughter's wedding.
"My roots there are pretty strong," Carpenter was saying earlier this week, his Final Four tickets no doubt under tight security. "My dad, my uncles and my cousins went there. I'm about the only one that didn't."
Carpenter, who went to Dickinson and then George Washington for law school, was born in West Virginia but shortly thereafter moved to Pittsburgh. His father, though, commuted back to St. Marys, a West Virginia town of about 2,000, every weekend to visit family. There's a bridge in the town named for his grandfather.
Characterizing his love for the Mountaineers, Carpenter admitted, "I'm clearly over the edge."
Mirror Publisher Ed Kruger isn't quite there - he's not going to Indy this weekend - but he'll be in front of the TV.
"It's like West Virginia going to the national championship game in football," Kruger said. "I'm going to stop everything and watch the game, just like all loyal West Virginians."
Though he has lived here for 10 years and says "Altoona's now my home," Kruger can't dispute part of his heart will always be in West Virginia. In the past, he's met Jerry West, who led the Mountaineers in 1959, as well as former WVU football coaches Bobby Bowden and Don Nehlen.
"I was in West Virginia this week, and there's a real air of excitement," he said.
Hollidaysburg Area High School sports programs have strong WVU connections. Basketball coach Mick Pentoney, like Kruger, is a native West Virginian, and football coach John Barton played for the Mountaineers from 1982-86.
"When I was in school, we had a solid basketball program, and we usually had winning seasons, but that's when we were in the Atlantic 10 and just to get an NCAA berth was a really big deal," Barton said. "Now every year they're in contention. From my days down there, I can tell you the state of West Virginia is going crazy right now."
Carpenter, meanwhile, has six tickets, at $360 each, that are good for Saturday's semifinals (Butler vs. Michigan State, WVU vs. Duke) and Monday's championship game. He may need more, but fear not: He's an experienced scalper.
"These tickets that are practically impossible to get at 5 p.m. are easy to get at 11 because of all the losing fans," he said. "After the doubleheader, nobody wants to stay for two days to watch the team that beat them."
Here's hoping, for the local WVU fans, the judge and all the Mountaineer faithful get a positive verdict over the next three days.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.