Cornell Big Red

Learning experience: Northwestern, Vandy in NCAA Brain Bowl

At Northwestern, they're celebrating a first-of-its-kind accomplishment — embarking on a trip to the NCAA Tournament that has eluded a school known for books, not basketball.

At Vanderbilt, they're shrugging their shoulders — proving once again that smart guys can play hoops, too.

Welcome to the Brain Game — the NCAA's plausibly deniable attempt at humor in the form of Thursday's matchup of "smart schools" in the West region.

The student-athletes from Northwestern (23-11) are seeded eighth and their counterparts from Vanderbilt (19-15) are ninth. Just as importantly, in this case: On the US News and World Report list of top national universities,...