Many Duke fans believe that more playing time for center Marshall Plumlee is the key to solving the Blue Devils’ woes inside.
Kevin Shamieh / The Chronicle
Many Duke fans believe that more playing time for center Marshall Plumlee is the key to solving the Blue Devils’ woes inside.

At first, Duke fans tried to rationalize and avoid panic mode: The loss to Notre Dame was fluke. The Fighting Irish are notoriously tough against top teams on their home court and were geared up to topple Duke in the first ACC matchup between the two programs. Sure Notre Dame had just lost its best player and had already lost to bad teams at home this year, but we could write it off.

But after Saturday’s loss to Clemson? At 1-2 in the ACC, Duke has been thrown off course just a tad. And we’re also out of coffee!

It seems the Duke basketball world has devolved into a fully-fledged freak-out. Really, these hiccups shouldn’t surprise us. Losses to Kansas and Arizona were understandable. Narrow home wins against East Carolina and Vermont weren’t so understandable. Losses to weak Notre Dame and Clemson teams… incomprehensible.

Duke fans, though, clearly aren’t used to hitting the panic button. The last time that evoked these sorts of emotions was the 2012 NCAA tournament loss to Lehigh. The loss ended the season, so there wasn’t really a moment to have a conniption.

Now it’s only January. A No. 1 seed may be improbable, but it’s too early to rule out a get-hot-late-in-the-season national championship run. This hope is why most of the freak outs I’ve seen have been of the, “I know what’s wrong, this is what Coach K must do to fix it” variety. Naturally, everybody with a Twitter account knows more than winningest all-time coach.

Among the trendy suggestions:
  • Try playing Marshall Plumlee
  • Play Marshall Plumlee more
  • Play Marshall Plumlee here or there
  • Play Marshall Plumlee anywhere
  • Try him! Try him!

Ok, everybody wants MP3 to play more. Maybe it’s because of the team’s porous post defense, or that something feels wrong because there hasn’t been a team without a Plumlee in the rotation since dinosaurs walked the earth and cars roamed the Tailgate lots.

But let’s ignore the 7-foot center in the room on a team that supposedly doesn’t have size and address how fans can survive this mid-season freak-out. Trust me, I’m a Mets, Jets and Knicks fan.

Your Duke Basketball Mid-Season Panic Guide:

Stop watching games with loved ones. This team is going to continue to have ups and downs despite its upside. Don’t ruin relationships with close friends and family by showing them your inner-screaming-at-the-television rage. They don’t need to hear you yell, “RASHEED, THE GUY IS WAITING THERE TO BLOCK YOUR SHOT!” or, “BLACK UNIS? WHEN WILL THEY LEARN?” over and over again. It gives everyone the best chance to keep their healthy relationships in tact.

Remember that Jabari Parker is awesome. Sure, he hasn’t been spectacular the past few games. But have you forgotten that he was a human highlight reel for the first half of the season? He’s the reason why this team still has a chance to win the title as a No. 3 seed a la Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse in 2003. He’s a natural small forward who’s slogging through nearly 30 minutes per game as a freshman, guarding an opposing team’s power forward or center all game. If he’s a bit tired, it’s one of the most understandable things going on. Don’t blame him. Or Rodney Hood.

Don’t give up. Everybody is entitled to panic. It’s only natural. In fact, sometimes it’s healthy. And when Duke was in the top-10 every week for more than six years, a streak that just ended last week, these moments are few and far between. Just don’t confuse the need for an occasional freak-out with thinking the season is over. (See: Parker, Jabari). Moments like these are when the team needs the fans most. Remember Club Cameron? It beats Shooters, at least five nights a week.

Keep in mind, life could be worse. You could be a UNC fan… they’re 0-3 in the ACC.

Alternatively, you could always just drink away your pains and wake up in February when this blows over. But with fraternity rush still going on, you were probably planning on doing that anyway.