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Give Tara VanDerveer the aux cord and the head coach has the perfect song for the upcoming Stanford women's basketball season: "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. That choice may comes as a surprise considering Stanford, the 2021 national champion, is coming off a bit of a "down" year -- at least based on the impossibly high bar the program has set. 

Stanford failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007 last season, and then lost one of their top players with Haley Jones leaving for the WNBA. To top it all off, former No. 1 recruit Lauren Betts entered the transfer portal and landed at UCLA

The Cardinal are now starting the 2023-24 campaign as the No. 15 team in the nation, their lowest ranking in the AP Top 25 poll since 2015. Meanwhile, VanDerveer is feeling fine about all of it. Actually, she is feeling better than fine.  

"I think we are in a great situation," VanDerveer told CBS Sports. "When the ball gets tossed up, I'm really glad we have our team. There are tremendous players on other teams. I know that LSU has some great players. Connecticut has great players. Iowa has great players. 

"But we have great players too." 

Stanford's top returner is Cameron Brink, the 2023 WBCA Defensive Player of the Year. She led the team in scoring and rebounding last season and is ready to embrace an even bigger role with Jones gone. 

"I think she is loving it. She is doing really well, she is working really hard on things," VanDerveer said of Brink. "She knows it's really important that she is out there for us. She is incredibly unselfish. I told her today she was overpassing. She is passing that ball and encouraging her teammates. She is a beast in there. I don't know who can guard her." 

Brink can be a threat on both ends of the court, and last season she was, once again, one of the nation's leading shot blockers. However, off the court she is not as intimidating. VanDerveer described Brink as "a sweetheart" who is "really friendly" and focused on school. The team will be looking to Brink for guidance, although she is not the only leader available.

Fifth-year guard Hannah Jump is also going to make sure her presence is felt. Last season she averaged 11.2 points per game while being one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation, making slightly over 44% of her shots from beyond the arc. 

But success will require every member of the roster to step up.   

"I think we'll go 10 deep pretty much in every game," VanDerveer said.  

Talana Lepolo – who recently earned a gold medal with Team USA at the 2023 FIBA U19 Women's World Cup – has improved significantly from last season, VanDerveer says. 

Meanwhile, VanDerveer is looking at Kiki Iriafen to be a strong rebounder, scorer and overall leader. She also expects sophomore forward Brooke Demetre, who tallied 125 assists last season, to get a lot more playing time. The freshman class has been putting in the work as well.

"The one that is surprising me the most so far is Chloe Clardy" VanDerveer said. "She has incredible poise. She just had some great scrimmages and is looking really good. All the freshmen are doing really well. They are game ready. We are very excited about that." 

Stanford will be tested early, as the Cardinal will be hosting No. 9 Indiana  – VanDerveer's alma mater – on Nov. 12. The Hoosiers are a top-10 team for multiple reasons, including the return of one of the nation's top scorers in MacKenzie Holmes. This is great news for the Cardinal, though, because they are not looking for easy opponents.

"We love our schedule being a tough schedule. We've always played a tough schedule," VanDerveer said. "That gets you ready for the NCAA Tournament." 

Although March is still a long ways away, VanDerveer's teams are always seen as strong contenders, which naturally comes with pressure. However, as the winningest coach in college women's basketball history, she has developed the perfect formula for success: playing bridge with her mom, walking her dogs and skiing whenever possible. In other words, just enjoying life.  

VanDerveer takes happiness so seriously the team even has their own "Happiness Professor."  

"The biggest thing I've learned from him, I think it's just to relax," VanDerveer said of Dr. Fred Luskin, an expert on positive psychology who periodically visits the team. "Turn the temperature down on things. Relax and not worry about stuff to really enjoy every day and be really positive." 

So no, the outside expectations don't really matter to the Cardinal. VanDerveer said the team is just looking to enjoy the process and "not complicate it" because the season always goes too fast. 

"We have fun and we laugh a lot. You're never going to have this team back again together. You just want to enjoy every day you have with them," VanDerveer said. "We are just going to work as hard as we can. A lot can happen between now and March. We are going to keep improving and enjoying going to practice every day."